SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Seemingly only Mother Nature could slow Sahith Theegala’s assault on par during the first round of the WM Phoenix Open.
The 24-year-old rookie out of Pepperdine University was 7-under through his first 16 holes at TPC Scottsdale and leading the tournament when play was suspended due to darkness at 6:23 p.m., with eight players still on the course. Theegala will be facing a 16-foot par putt when play resumes Friday morning.
“I got a little chippy at the end, I started hitting my driver a little squirrely at the end, so this is a welcome stop, honestly,” he said. “I was kind of losing some momentum there.”
Less than two weeks ago, after he completed his final round at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, Theegala was surprised with one of five sponsor exemptions into the WM Phoenix Open field.
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“Wow, that’s awesome. Thanks for giving me this chance. We’ll try to keep it rolling,” he said in a moment captured on video and spread via social media. “That’s so cool. Are you kidding me? I can’t thank these guys enough for giving me another opportunity to do what I love.”
Theegala knows all too well what a difference a sponsor invite can mean to his fledgling career. He parlayed a late-season sponsor invite into the Barracuda Championship in August into a T-34 finish that lifted him just inside the top 200 of the FedEx Cup standings and qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where he earned one of the 25 PGA Tour cards that were up for grabs. Asked what he would’ve been doing this week if not for the sponsor invite bestowed upon him, he said, “Rest… I’d be doing absolutely nothing.”
“It feels like a free roll because I shouldn’t be here. I think maybe two guys from the Korn Ferry category got in as alternates, so I wasn’t even on planning on being here,” Theegala added. “So the fact that I’m here, I think we had a pretty good mindset of just trying to enjoy the week as much as possible and it’s been good so far.”
Much has been expected of Theegala after a stellar college career. He reached as high as No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and became just the fifth golfer to sweep the Ben Hogan Award, Haskins Award and Jack Nicklaus Award given to college golf’s top player.
His season began with great promise after Theegala shot 64 to grab the opening round lead of the Sanderson Farms Championship, his second start of the year, and stayed in front until shooting a final-round 71. He dropped to a share of eighth place, his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.
“It was really great for me, knowing that when I’m playing near the top of my game that I’m able to compete,” he said. “That was the biggest takeaway I had from that week.”
Theegala, who has made eight cuts in his first 10 events and enters the week ranked 88th in the FedEx Cup standings, is trying to become the first sponsor
By: Adam Schupak
Title: Sponsor exemption Sahith Theegala leads WM Phoenix Open after first day
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2022/02/10/sponsor-exemption-sahith-theegala-leads-wm-phoenix-open-after-first-day/
Published Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2022 02:24:33 +0000