VALLARTA, Mexico — Tony Finau and Jon Rahm play enough golf together away from the PGA Tour that Finau thinks it has only made him a better player.
He showed that Sunday in the Mexico Open at Rahm’s expense.
Finau was expecting a tough test against Rahm, the Masters champion and No. 1 player in the world. Equipped with a 2-shot lead, Finau played bogey-free for a 5-under 66 and never gave Rahm or anyone else much of a chance.
He wound up winning by 3 shots for his fourth PGA Tour title in the past nine months.
“Any time you can battle with a guy like Jon Rahm who’s in the form that he was and come out on top, it makes me feel good,” Finau said. “Rahm is a good friend of mine, we practice quite a bit together, so having Rahmbo as like a sparring partner for me has only made me better. And I hope he can say the same.”
Finau earned a small measure of redemption at Vallarta Vidanta, where last year he finished runner-up to Rahm by 1 shot.
“Obviously I wanted to win, but it’s a reminder that everybody out here is a great player,” Rahm said. “Tony came out with a 2-shot lead and played fantastic golf. I feel like had I been able to pressure him a little more, we would have seen more birdies from Tony.”
Finau finished at 24-under 260. Turns out Rahm wasn’t his biggest threat.
Brandon Wu, also a runner-up last year, holed a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth hole and made a short birdie on the next hole to briefly tie for the lead. Finau answered with a birdie on the seventh, and then Wu fell back with a bogey from the bunker on No. 8 and a tee shot into the water on the 10th that led to double bogey.
“Just a few too many loose swings,” Wu said after a 68 to finish third. “Satisfied with how I went today. I’m glad I gave myself a chance through nine holes.”
Rahm closed with a 67 and certainly had his chances. He was 3 behind Finau at the turn but failed to birdie two of the par-5s with a poor drive on the 12th and a poor approach on the 14th that kept him from reasonable birdie chances.
“It was a day where I didn’t do much wrong, but I didn’t do much right, either,” he said.
The Spaniard’s last hope was on the 16th hole. Finau hit his approach into the bunker and Rahm hit a 7-iron into the same bunker. Both made par, and at that point, Rahm simply ran out of holes.
“I feel like if I hit that second shot on 16 on the green and give myself a real look at birdie, Tony’s up-and-down gets significantly more difficult,” Rahm said.
Akshay Bhatia, the 21-year-old who has special temporary membership, faded to a 70 and finished fourth.
Finau now has two victories this season — his other was in the Houston Open last fall — to join Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa as the only multiple winners on tour this season.
Finau’s sixth career PGA Tour victory was worth $1,386,000. He also moved to No. 11 in the world.
Finau did his best work on the front nine. He left a bunker shot in the sand on the sixth hole and managed to get up and down for par. On the eighth hole, another bunker shot from a tough lie didn’t quite reach the green, and he holed a 15-foot putt from the fringe for par.
Rahm was playing for the second time in three weeks since winning the Masters. He is skipping the Wells Fargo Championship — his one opt-out from elevated events with a $20 million purse — and will have a two-week break going into the PGA Championship.
Finau, who went more than five years between his first and second wins on the PGA Tour, now has multiple wins in back-to-back seasons.