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Tony Finau makes a name for himself

Tony Finau watches his tee shot on the

Tony Finau watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during the final round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on Aug. 16, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wis. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Redington

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - This might be remembered as the tournament that gave Tony Finau his big break. The 25-year-old from Utah shot himself out of contention with a bogey on No. 7 and a triple bogey on No. 9, but he made quite an impact all week on the PGA Championship -- and on himself.

The fact that he was on the leader board in the final round of a major gave the country a chance to know his story, a story worth knowing and fun to hear. He was the only former fire-knife dancer of Tongan-Samoan descent in the field.

He was proud to have finished with a birdie on No. 18 for a share of 10th place at 11 under par. "You have to get results out here," he said. "You have to prove to yourself that you belong, to play with the best players in the world. The only way you do that is to see your name on the leader board with them."

Finau once made the finals of a $2-million contest called "The Ultimate Game" on the eve of his high school graduation. He turned pro right after that, followed soon by his younger brother Gipper.

At the Ultimate Game, Finau impressed an observer with a 406-yard drive, and the observer, Lee Trevino, set him up with a Callaway contract. That was a big help, considering he had subsidized his golf by performing a dance with flaming knives at parties for $50 a pop, then playing in big-stakes matches in Las Vegas.

His nine-member family had modest means, to say the least. The two brothers took up golf when their parents insisted they get a hobby. They tried tennis first, then switched. Their dad, who works in cargo for Delta Air Lines, couldn't afford practice buckets, so he set up mattresses on a garage wall and turned it into a mini driving range.

Tony (with Gipper) appeared on Golf Channel's "Big Break Disney," which gave him experience that helped Tony earn his PGA Tour card on his fifth try. His finish at Whistling Straits gave him impetus to go further.

"The strides I've taken from last year to this year are really big," he said. "If I continue to do that and I continue to learn, then I do feel like I could be one of the best players in the world."

McIlroy now No. 2

Rory McIlroy finished 17th at 9 under and did not show the least sign of a limp after his recovery from a serious ankle injury. "I'm walking away pretty happy with how the week went," said the world's No. 2 player, who was passed in the world rankings by Jordan Spieth after this tournament. "Obviously, it isn't a win and I didn't get myself into contention, but considering six weeks ago I wasn't able to walk, it's not a bad effort."


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