Tony Finau arrived with a bad ankle and a wounded ego to enter the contest at the 2018 Masters Tournament

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AUGUSTA, Ga – The pain, Tony Finau confessed, was unbearable. He knew, looking down at his dislocated ankle, he had the potential to be bad. Very bad. For those who saw the Masters 3 3 Contest on Wednesday, their lower left leg looked like a can of wrinkled soda. The repetition was enough to turn your stomach.

But in addition to the pain, Finau, one of the best athletes on the PGA Tour, felt a twinge of embarrbadment as he lay in agony on the lawn. After all, what kind of plover head dislocates the ankle celebrating a hole in one? It was not even like he was the first ace of Finau. (It was her twelfth, she timidly confessed later.) Now, presumably, she was going to finish her dream of playing in the Masters a day before it began. Do you know those lists that appear listing all the humiliating ways in which the athletes have been injured? Finau knew, going forward, he was about to be in each of them. When Tour's more athletic man dislocates his ankle in a big bang, it does not help reinforce the argument that golfers are really great athletes.

Tony Finau made five birdies on 12 holes in the opening round at Augusta National on Thursday, sitting at 4-under in a tie for second in the standings. Andrew Redington / Getty Images

"I have no idea why I started running," said Finau. "I saw it disappear, it was my first Par 3 contest, my first Masters, there were a lot of things that went into that, I just took off, I noticed my family was behind me, I turned around, I'm not a great [defensive back] you know, doing I will not do it for the rest of my career. "

Partly because of that embarrbadment, Finau did not wait for any medical badistance. He really did not want his children, the four who attended, to see him transported on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. Then, he did what any slightly stupid but stubborn athlete would do. He put his ankle back in its place.

Then, on Thursday, he went out and filmed one of the best rounds of his career, shooting a 4-under 68. He walked the Augusta National hills cautiously, and when he turned, He could not move his weight to his left side. Somehow he still hit the ball well enough to take a portion of the second place, two strokes behind the leader Jordan Spieth.

It was one of the most unexplainable changes in the history of this tournament, and when it was over, everyone, including Finau – was still trying to wrap their brains about how it was possible.

"I see myself as a very strong mental person, and I think I showed that [Thursday] in my round," said Finau. [19659002] The decision to play was not without its share of drama or suspense. He spent the whole night trying to freeze his leg and keep it elevated. If he slept a lot, it was a restless dream. He saw the video of what happened, what could have been a mistake. He could not get the image out of his head while trying to sleep.

"I've seen the replay of the video in my head millions of times," said Finau.

Tony Finau dislocated his left ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one during Wednesday's par 3 Contest at the Masters. Andrew Redington / Getty Images

He got out of bed at dawn and had an MRI on his ankle at 7 o'clock in the morning. His doctor told him that, remarkably, he had broken some ligaments (the equivalent of a high). ankle sprain) but that was it. Playing on it, if it could withstand the pain, it would not cause more harm. That was all I needed to hear. I was going to try. After a delicate but optimistic session at the shooting range, Finau decided it was good to leave. He says that he did not receive a vaccine and that he did not take painkillers.

"I knew I could not put all the weight I wanted on my foot," said Finau. "My coach and I had to come up with a plan, we knew that the only thing I could not do was hurt him more … I feel like my back has been against the wall all my life, something like that is just another part of the story."

When Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997, there were hundreds of written columns of hope predicting that the triumph would inspire a generational wave of children who looked like Woods to take on. Golf. And, in general, that prediction has not come true. But Finau is living proof that he did have some merit. At the time that Woods won the Masters for the first time, becoming the first non-white golfer to do so, Finau was 7 years old and grew up in Utah, and had his eyes glued to the television. That moment changed the direction of his life. He had no interest in golf before, although his father and younger brother played frequently.

"Tiger really made him look great," said Kelepi Finau, Tony's father. "That was the moment he decided not to play soccer."

When he decided he was interested in golf, his parents were happy to have found something that would keep him away from trouble, but there was not much money for Finau to practice his gifts. Kelepi, who immigrated from Tonga when he was 11, worked as a baggage handler at the airport and had to support a family of nine with a meager salary. They had to be creative. Finally, his father placed a mattress against the wall in the family garage and placed strips of carpet on the floor. Finau and his brother, Gipper, hit the balls for hours.

When asked to express in words what golf has meant to his family over the years, Kelepi Finau's eyes began to cry, and he was quiet for five seconds before he discovered what he meant. The moment he spoke, there were tears rolling down his face.

"This is literally the best country of all time," said Kelepi Finau, his voice trembling. "To give my son the opportunity to play such a wonderful game, let my son have the opportunity to take advantage of something this country has to offer, it's a great country."

In many ways, what happened on Thursday was A reminiscence of the mental toughness that Woods showed when he won the US Open at Torrey Pines in 2008 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a broken leg. Finau was not noticeably limping, but he did have to navigate carefully through the lies and mounds that give Augusta her character. One thing that can not be transmitted on television is how dramatic are the elevation changes in this course. However, there was Finau, climbing the hill at No. 1 (where he bogeyed) and then down the hill at No. 2 (where he birdied) without much noticeable discomfort. As the round progressed, he seemed more comfortable with each swing, making crucial pairings on 17 and 18 to finish his round. Even Woods, who always bothered that people did not think of golfers as real athletes, must have been impressed.

"Even if the pain was overwhelming, I think I would still have reached the first tee." said Finau's caddy, Greg Bodine. "He worked all his life to be in this place, he wanted to play in the Masters, if he could swing, he was going to play, this was his dream, he's a true athlete, I saw Tony nailed with flat feet, I've seen him tomahawk , I've seen it windmill, it's a new generation [of golfer] sure. "

Whether Finau stops and contains this week, it almost seems irrelevant now. He turned one of the most embarrbading mistakes in sports into a gritty and memorable performance, a feat that is almost impossible in this viral age. It would be extraordinary if he were in the mix on Sunday, but there is still a ton of literal hills to climb for him to get there. But after what has just happened, it seems silly to suggest that he can not do it.

"For me, it is nothing less than a miracle," said Finau. "My foot was out of place 24 hours ago, and I feel here in second place in the Masters after the first round, it's almost a miracle for me"

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