Sahith Theegala has unfinished business at the Phoenix Open. Two years ago, he had a chance to win the title until his tee shot at 17 got a bad bounce and kicked into the water. Leading up to this week’s event, he happened to see that tee shot again.
“I was like, ‘gosh, how did that bounce left,’” he said. “Just kind of fired me up and gave me a little extra motivation.”
Theegala has a chance to make amends on Sunday. He followed up his 65 on Thursday in the worst of the weather – “the first day was just a straight endurance test,” he said. “Honestly one of the best rounds I’ve played on Tour” – with a second-round 64 to grab the 36-hole lead.
“It was still freezing until like hole 6 or 7, but we finally got some very scorable conditions,” Theegala said. “No wind, soft greens.”
But the third round didn’t begin well for Theegala. He started with back-to-back bogeys, as many bogeys as he had made in his first 36 holes. He bandaged the wound with a par at the third and stuck his tee shot at the par-3 fourth to 6 feet and made birdie. Theegala finished at 12 under through seven holes of the third round, one stroke off the lead.
“I want it bad,” said Theegala, who won his first Tour title in September at the Fortinet Championship. “I’m a competitor.”
A year ago, Theegala had about 60 friends and family cheering him on. He could barely speak in his media interview and then hugged his mother outside and broke into tears, the only time he’s ever cried over golf.
“It was just like a culmination of everything, and then my first time really being in the heat of the moment and just feeling like I had kind of let everybody else down, including myself,” Theegala said. “I’m an emotional guy, but usually am not ugly crying like that.”