AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Tony Finau nearly missed his Masters debut after injuring his ankle celebrating a hole-in-one in the Par-3 Contest but on Sunday he was standing tall on the back of a six-hole birdie blitz that gave him a six-under 66 and a 10th place finish.
Finau suffered torn ligaments in the freak accident on Wednesday but made it through four rounds on a tightly-wrapped left ankle to clinch a return invitation next year to Augusta National, which invites back the top 12 and ties.
The 28-year-old, the first man of Tongan and American Samoan descent to play on the PGA Tour, said he was determined to pick up the strokes he needed over the last nine holes, where he made six straight birdies from the 12th.
“I guess you could say I was in the zone, to finish that way,” he told reporters. “I hit the fairways I needed to, especially on the par-5s. I hit some great shots and made some great putts. That’s what you’ve got to do around here. Very, very pleased with the way I finished today.
“I really put my head down,” added Finau, whose closing rush lifted him to a seven-under 281 total.
Finau said he had no regrets about the week.
“The hole-in-one was spectacular, following up by the most embarrassing (moment) in my life. But it is what it is. I’ve got a lot of cool coverage from it,” he said.
“The reach from what happened to me was pretty incredible. I wouldn’t change that. Yes, I was embarrassed, but hey, things happen. And obviously I was able to overcome it.
“Who knows, if I’m healthy, if I played better, if I played worse. All I know is that I did my best for the circumstance that I had, and came out with a nice finish this week.”
Finau, who had dislocated the ankle before popping it back in place during the Par-3 event, said it had been an unforgettable week.
“To be on the back nine at Augusta on a Sunday, to be playing some good golf, it doesn’t get much better,” he said.
“One of the highlights of my golfing career thus far has been this week. The adversity I was faced with on Wednesday, and now the way I finished today, you know, you can’t make this stuff up.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford