THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – “It got me really good.”
That’s what Tony Finau told reporters this week about contracting COVID-19, which knocked him down and knocked him out of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open two weeks ago.
“It was not the experience I thought I was going to have,” Finau said at the Zozo Championship at Sherwood, where he was tied for sixth entering the third round after firing 69-64. “Most guys are asymptomatic. They’re saying if you’re young and healthy, it’s not a big deal. I think I gained a little bit of respect for the virus.
“I could see that you could definitely die from it. Not that I ever felt I was going to die. But it can take your immune system to a place where I could totally see you being hospitalized from it, and it affecting your life. So I think in a way, I just gained respect for the actual virus. Not that I didn’t take it seriously, not that I wasn’t social distancing or anything like that, but just that I understand some of the measures that our country has taken in certain states. Whether you agree with it or not, it’s probably the right thing to do.
“It was worse than the flu, and it lasted way longer.”
Finau, 31, is feeling much better than he did three weeks ago. He began experiencing flu-like symptoms Oct. 3. Two days later, he drove from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas for the Shriners. He took his off-site test on Oct. 6 and got the phone call from a PGA Tour official that day that he had tested positive.
He quarantined alone for 10 days in a Las Vegas condo.
“For the first five days it got worse,” said Finau, who does not know where he contracted the virus. “I had massive headaches, body aches, and I didn’t feel like doing anything. It got me really good, fatigue wise. I’m very active. Work out quite often. Always playing golf or with my (four) kids. It knocked me down. There’s no question about it.
“For those 10 days, I didn’t feel like doing anything. I obviously didn’t get to practice. I lost my taste and smell after about four days. Still don’t have it back. That kind of sucks; I’m quite a foodie.”
Finau, No. 17 in the Official World Golf Rankings, has tested positive five times since the initial positive test, but that’s due to dead COVID-19 cells in his body. He is allowed to play because he is no longer contagious according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, which further state a person can return to work 10 days after the developing symptoms, provided he or she is not running a fever.
Finau could have played in last week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas but said he didn’t feel ready.
“I needed another week,” he said.
Tony Finau looks on over the 18th green during the second round of the Zozo Championship in Thousand Oaks, California. (Harry How/Getty Images)
So far, he’s having a good week at Sherwood Country Club north of Los Angeles. And he’s looking forward to the Masters in November. Last year, he was in the final group alongside eventual winner Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari and tied for fifth. He tied for 10th in 2018 in his only other Masters appearance.
“The silver lining for me is I’m 100 percent going to play in the Masters,” said Finau, who is making his 13th start this week since the PGA Tour returned in June after a 13-week break due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. He tied for eighth in the U.S. Open in his most recent start ahead of the Zozo and tied for fourth in the PGA Championship. He had three other top-10 finishes.
“I’m just trying to be as healthy as possible now,” he said. “I’ve made some great strides in the last week. Just how my body feels. I’ve got this week. I’m playing Houston. And I think (Augusta National) is a place where I can play well no matter what. (This ordeal) was quite rough. But I’m on the back end of it and I’m happy about that.”