Rookie Indian American Theegala eclipses stars to lead in PGA event
Scottsdale (Arizona) : Rookie Indian-American golfer Sahith Theegala has taken a two-shot lead at the end of second round in the Phoenix Open here, the 24-year-old is in pole position for a maiden PGA Tour title and has some heavyweights of the game snapping at his heels.Two weeks after receiving a surprise sponsor’s exemption, Theegala eclipsed the stars with a second-round score of 7-under 64 on Friday propelling him to 12-under 130 for a two-shot lead over defending champion Brooks Koepka (66, 66 – 132) and Olympic Games gold medallist Xander Schauffele (67, 65 – 132).Reigning FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay (67, 66 – 133) is a further shot back after a 66. First-round leader K.H. Lee of South Korea had to overcome an early double bogey to card a 70 as he slipped to equal eighth place on 7-under while Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who is a two-time winner at Phoenix Open, enters the weekend in T13 following a second straight 68.After dropping two bogeys early on Friday when he returned in the morning to complete two remaining holes for a first-round 66, the 24-year-old Theegala began his second round in style with four birdies in his opening five holes and then finished with four more birdies in his closing six holes to extend his dream week.
“Pretty great. I haven’t had time to let it set in and hopefully, I don’t think too much about it because obviously what I’ve been doing has been working, but, yeah, again, just thankful I’m here and trying to make the most out of the opportunity. No expectations at all, honestly,” said Theegala, who will play the third round with Koepka and Schauffele.Theegala, a former amateur star at Pepperdine University, showed a cool head despite a disappointing start to his day, and his ball-striking prowess has helped yield 15 birdies so far, which is the best haul amongst the elite field.”I wasn’t too upset about the way it started. Like I had a 15-footer to start the day, I put a good roll, just missed. And the next tee shot I put it under the lip of the fairway bunker and I’m like, okay, I can’t do much about that, right? And I knew if I kept putting the ball in the fairway I’m going to have scoring opportunities,” he was quoted as saying by the PGA Tour.Theegala, whose father emigrated from India to California, had initially planned to enjoy a week off after four straight tournaments but altered his plans after receiving the invitation to this week’s US$8.2 million showpiece.With the Phoenix Open known for its exuberant fans and party-like stadium atmosphere, Theegala’s parents and six other uncles and cousins joined in the trip to Phoenix and have since formed his cheering squad.”Oh, for sure my family,” Theegala responded when asked who was having more fun.
“They’re such a great bunch, they’re so positive and the fact they drove out here just to support me and walk six hours and probably dehydrated out there and feet hurting and still cheering me on, it’s really cool to know that they’re there.”Last October, Theegala, who was ranked No. 3 in the world amateur golf ranking, held the lead/co-lead through three rounds at the Sanderson Farms Championship before finishing tied eighth, his lone top-10 to date on TOUR, and he hopes the experience will push him towards a win.”That was a huge week for me. It was probably the best, golf stretch of golf I played. Some of the best ball-striking I’ve ever had. So it was really great for me, knowing that when I’m playing near the top of my game that I’m able to compete. That was the biggest takeaway I had from that week, because of the fact that I was able to p”t myself in contention,” said Theegala, who earned his PGA TOUR card through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last year.