Sahith Theegala’s maiden PGA Tour victory was a memorable one for all the right reasons as the likable 25-year-old from Orange, California ran out a two-stroke victor at the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Country Club in his home state.
Cheered on by sizable galleries and no shortage of family and friends, Theegala began the final round with a two-stroke lead over Korea’s S.H. Kim and Australian Cam Davis, and though that would be the margin of victory at the end, Theegala did all the heavy lifting on the front nine as he poured in four birdies and just the one bogey to stretch the lead to five strokes at the turn as both Davis and Kim failed to make any headway.
He could afford the luxury of bogeying the last and still being guaranteed a two-stroke win as Kim, in the group in front, was in the clubhouse at -19, and Davis, playing alongside and who’d finish in solo third, was six back at the time.
Undoubtedly supremely talented, wayward driving has often been Theegala’s Achilles Heel, and this was a victory that came in spite of a loose canon off the tee, rather than through an uncharacteristic week of straight hitting.
Ranking 40th for the week in strokes gained off the tee, he was sixth in tee to green, third around the green, and second in putting, meaning that the old adage of ‘drive for show, putt for dough’ was extremely apt for a change in a game where more often than not, the driver is the most important club in the bag.
“Yeah, it’s crazy, crazy,” Theegala told the press afterwards. “Just can’t believe it happened. Just a lot of work that was put in and a lot of people that were behind this. It’s just golf is really, really hard. You never know when you’re going to find a little hot streak or when you’re going to go on a cold streak.”
“You know, I’m just taking it all in as the game’s been feeling good and putting in the work. Yeah, my first thought is just like, it feels like such a team win. It doesn’t feel like a win just for myself, it’s for everyone that’s supporting me and kind of got me where I am today.
“A lot of really, really good golf the last four days just gives me so much confidence that I kind of went out there and got it today. I didn’t really just kind of leak my way in, I really felt like I kept the pedal down and that’s kind of what I was missing in the first few times I was in contention.”
A fortnight out from the Ryder Cup, Justin Thomas enjoyed a welcome return to form with a fifth place finish that will ease the pressure a little on the two-time major winner and captain Zach Johnson when the biennial event gets underway at Rome’s Marco Simone Golf Club.
Thomas was only able to manage a final-round, level-par 72 having started the day two behind Theegala, but it’s a welcome return to form from a U.S. perspective and a first top-five finish since the WM Phoenix Open back in early February.