There’s only one NBA jersey in Tony Finau’s closet: a gold Los Angeles Lakers jersey with a purple No. 8 on the front and the name “Bryant” on the back.
Finau isn’t a big NBA geek, but he’s always been a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan. The professional golfer started rooting for the Lakers at an early age just because of Bryant, and he’s been a staunch follower ever since. So, after 1,975 days without a win on the PGA Tour, it was fitting that Finau had secured their long-awaited second victory on the Black Mamba’s birthday.
Tony Finau idolized Kobe Bryant
Every professional athlete had some kind of connection to Bryant. Some were lucky enough to know him and spend time with him during his 41 years on this earth, while others simply admired him from afar.
You might think PGA Tour players would be the least invested in Bryant’s life and career, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Take a look at the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Days after Bryant’s tragic death, many golfers donned Kobe clothing while playing the iconic TPC Scottsdale 16th hole to honor the Lakers legend.
Finau went all out wearing his Bryant jersey and purple and gold golf shoes with “8.24” written on the sides.
“I only own one NBA jersey, so to give you an idea of what Kobe meant to me, and just being a Laker fan in general,” Finau said last year after his first round in the league. TPC Scottsdale. “When you think of LA you think of Kobe. So that was the only jersey I owned and I knew that, hey, now is the time.
Finau finished the tournament in second place after losing to Webb Simpson in a two-man playoff. There was just something about playing for Bryant that kindled a fire in him, and it came through again last weekend.
Finau wins biggest PGA Tour event of his life on Bryant’s birthday
Entering the final round of the Northern Trust, Finau had gone five years without registering a victory on the PGA Tour. He had become known as the Tour’s most talented golfer who just didn’t know how to wrap up.
Everything changed on Monday.
Finau shot a final round of 65 at Liberty National to sneak into a playoff game against Cameron Smith, and all he needed was a peer in 18 to secure his first win in 1,975 days. The amazing part? He did so on the day of what would have been Kobe’s 43rd birthday.
“It’s more massive, I think, just for my sense of accomplishment,” Finau told reporters after the victory. “It’s hard to lose, and it’s hard to lose in front of the world. I have already done this several times this year. It made me hungrier. If that doesn’t put you off, it makes you hungrier. You keep telling me, ‘When are you going to win again?’ It makes me hungrier.
“Everything is equal so far. It was time for me to win again.
Take control of the FedEx Cup qualifiers
Monday’s triumph was not just the biggest victory of Finau’s career. It also propelled him to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings with just two tournaments left in the playoffs. Finau is now in the driver’s seat to win the ultimate $ 15 million PGA Tour prize at the TOUR Championship.
And not only that – the victory also propelled Finau into the top six of the U.S. Ryder Cup standings, which would secure him a spot on the squad if he was left there for another week.
Thanks to a few feats in the final round and some magic from Kobe, Finau could be on track for the best month of his career.
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