THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Tony Finau is feeling good, all things considered. And he’s relieved. Not only is he on his way back after contracting the coronavirus, but he has a big tournament to look forward to next month.
“The silver lining for me is I’m 100 percent going to play in the Masters,” Finau said Friday at Sherwood Country Club, where he shot a second-round 64 in the Zozo Championship. He trails leader Justin Thomas by three strokes.
Finau learned a lot about COVID-19 during his 10-day quarantine in Las Vegas after testing positive on Oct. 6, forcing him to withdraw from the Shriners for Childrens Hospital Open two weeks ago.
Among those lessons is he knows he is no longer contagious, even though he has tested positive five times since his initial diagnosis. The Centers For Disease Control have stated that a person can return to work 10 days following the onset of symptoms, provided there is no fever.
And it also said that those who contracted COVID-19 and had symptoms will likely continue to test positive for weeks, even though they are not contagious. So Finau does not have to worry about a positive test knocking him out of the Masters — a concern Phil Mickelson raised earlier this week.
Finau had hoped to play at last week’s CJ Cup at Sherwood, and the fact that he was still in Las Vegas made that easier. He was cleared to practice on that Wednesday but not well enough to play.
“It just wasn’t going to happen,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling up to it. I needed another week.”
Finau, 31, said he started to become ill on Oct. 3 with flu-like symptoms. Two days later, he drove from his Salt Lake City home to the tournament and then was tested the following day, with the positive result forthcoming.
“For the first five days, it got worse,” said Finau, who was required by the PGA Tour to quarantine in Las Vegas for 10 days — with a $75,000 stipend provided. “I had massive headaches, body aches. 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 kids and quite active. 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. It was not the experience I thought I was going to have. Most guys are asymptomatic. They say if you’re young and healthy, it’s not a big deal. I think I gained some respect for the virus.”
Finau said he does not know where he got the virus but was told it likely occurred during a timeframe of 48 to 72 hours before symptoms sent in. He wondered about a tournament one of his kids played in where he caddied. He had not competed since the U.S. Open last month.
The PGA Tour has played tournaments for four months, with a limited amount of issues due to COVID-19. The Tour has announced 15 positive tests among players it has tested, although there have been three prominent players who were positive in the last three weeks: Finau, Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott.
Ranked 17th in the world, Finau has been busy since the PGA Tour’s restart following a 13-week break due to the pandemic. He played 12 times through the U.S. Open, where he tied for eighth. He also tied for fourth at the PGA Championship and had three other top-10 finishes.
“It was worse than the flu and it lasted way longer,” he said. “This was 10 days of a little bit worse symptoms than the flu and fatigue. Not really feeling like doing anything. Not really comfortable in your skin. It was quite rough. But I’m on the back end of it and I’m happy about that.
“Not that I felt I was ever going to die, but it can take your immune system to a place where I can totally see being hospitalized from it and affecting your life. In a way, I gained a respect for the actual virus. Not that I wasn’t taking it seriously. But I understand the measures that are being taken, whether your agree with it or not, it’s probably the right thing to do.”
Finau did not begin practicing again until last Saturday. He had planned to play both Las Vegas events and the Zozo, so he lost two weeks of tournament golf, a bit of a setback in his Masters preparation.
“I’m just trying to be as healthy as possible now,” Finau 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. Played a great round of golf today which is huge for me. And I think (Augusta National) is a place where I can play well no matter what.”