Since the Official World Golf Ranking began in 1986, the average rank of Masters champions is 15.3. The current world No.15? Tony Finau.
The American is two shots off the lead going into the final round after a scintillating 64 on day three. He paved the way for that with a record-equalling 30 on the front nine.
On just his 12th major start, and his second visit to Augusta National, the likeable 29-year-old has a legitimate chance at becoming a major champion – and, of much lesser import, continuing a peculiar rankings trend.
“That would be quite funny if I won tomorrow,” he said. “Being the 15th ranked player, I wouldn't move the number. It would stay at 15 for next year.”
The average might not change but Finau’s status most certainly would. To date, he has only one PGA Tour victory to his credit – the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. However, with an impressive Ryder Cup debut under his belt in an otherwise awful US performance last year and top ten finishes in three of his last four majors, there’s plenty else to like about his résumé.
A major, then, wouldn’t look out of place. And if he keeps playing the par-5s the way he has been, he’ll have a great chance. Finau is currently ten-under-par on those alone this week.
“I talked to my coach and my caddie and our biggest game plan for the week was to take care of the par-5s,” he revealed. “History always tells us the guys that play the par-5s well are the ones that go on to win the tournament and that go on to be in contention. Par-5s, that's where my advantage is anyway, but in emphasis here at Augusta National, you have to play the par-5s well to win.”
He’ll also have to something else well to win: outscore his “golfing idol” Tiger Woods.
“As a kid, I always wanted to compete against him,” added Finau. “I've dreamed of playing in the final group with him in a major championship.”
He took up golf in the summer of 1997, inspired by Tiger’s record-breaking victory at Augusta National months earlier. It wasn’t until his rookie season, in 2014/15, that he first met the 14-time major winner when he was invited, along with all of Nike’s staff athletes, to Woods’ restaurant in Florida.
“That was really cool. It was a special night and one that I'll remember for a long time, just because of who he was for me growing up.”
Be that as it may, he won’t be intimidated when he steps onto the first tee with Woods in the final round. That, he says, is something he learned from years of watching Tiger at his best.
“The way I look at it, Tiger taught us how to compete. We're the aftermath, if you will, of the Tiger effect. The way he dominated and watching him growing up, it was like he was scared of nobody. I think a lot of us try to be like him and try to be that way to where nothing on the golf course can scare us and our skills can showcase.”
How odd it would be for the current world No.15 to continue the average of world No.15s winning at Augusta at the expense of his idol winning his 15th major.
“It's going to be a Masters to remember,” he added.
He’s not wrong.