Fresh off his Tour win, Sahith Theegala is embracing the first off-season of his career
In September, at Silverado, Sahith Theegala captured his first Tour win. A month later, on the brink of turning 26, his next chess move was … chillin’.
THE SCENE: OCTOBER 5, FROM HIS COUCH IN HOUSTON, OVER FACETIME AFTER DINNER.
Dylan Dethier: It’s been only a few weeks since you broke through at the Fortinet. How does life feel different, knowing you’re now a Tour winner?
Sahith Theegala: That’s a good question. I’d never really let myself get to the point of thinking about winning, and I definitely hadn’t thought about how I’d feel after winning. [A furry head appears on screen.] Sorry. My dog wants attention. I really don’t feel any different at all. Maybe when I tee it up in the next event, I’ll feel something. Like, Damn, that’s awesome. I’m a PGA Tour winner, and nobody can ever take that away from me. But in terms of the day-to-day process, the practice and relationships, it all feels the same. I wouldn’t even say there was, like, a weight lifted, because, weirdly enough, I didn’t really ever feel pressure to win. I think I did a good job just maintaining my attitude of trying to get the best from my game and see where that takes me.
DD: Was it easy to keep that positive attitude or difficult, given that you’ve won at every other level of the game?
ST: I have won at every level, and I’ve drawn confidence from that. I know I’ve won in strong fields in junior golf, college golf, mini-tours. Obviously, the PGA Tour is a lot harder, but the best college golfers end up being the best guys on Tour as well. So keeping that in mind and knowing that good golf is good golf no matter where you are, if I just put myself in contention enough it feels like an odds game from there.
DD: Who were some of the college players you looked at and said, “That is the guy”?
ST: There were some guys I didn’t get to play with. Like, my teammates [at Pepperdine] competed against Jon Rahm, and they were like, “Dude, this guy is not real.” In my college years, there was Collin [Morikawa], Cam Young, Sam Burns — so many guys it’s ridiculous. But two really stood out. One was Viktor Hovland. In my junior year, I played with him at the Prestige at PGA West. I don’t know if he was a freshman or sophomore, but I was like, This guy’s for sure the best I’ve ever played with. I remember asking him, “Are you going to turn pro?” And he was like, “Nah, man. I’m not even close. I suck compared to the pro level.” The very next hole is a 190-yard par 3 with water short and right, and he hits a high, soft cut to three feet. I stripe one to 45 feet, pin-high left on the fringe, and I was so happy with it. And I just thought, This guy’s unbelievable. Then, my senior year, I got to play a final round with Ludvig [Aberg]. I didn’t know anything about him, some freshman from Texas Tech I’d never heard of. And it was like, This guy is a robot. A straight-up robot. After I played with him, I went to Instagram and screen-recorded his swing and was like, Man, I should swing like this. I still have the video on my phone. So, yeah, it was funny to see the two of them kicking a– at this year’s Ryder Cup. They’re gonna be two of the best players in the world. Viktor already is.
I remember asking Viktor Hovland, ‘Are you going to turn pro?’ And he was like, ‘Nah, I’m not even close.’ [Then] he hits a high cut to three feet.”
DD: Did you watch much of the Cup?
ST: Honestly, it was the least I’ve ever watched a Ryder Cup. But this is the first time I’ve been on Tour for the Ryder Cup, and, even though I wasn’t really that close to being in the discussion [to make the U.S. team], it definitely hurt. So I didn’t stay up like I usually would for a European Ryder Cup. It sucked seeing the U.S. down so quickly. It took all the air out of it.
DD: Is that motivating, watching after being on the outside of that discussion?
ST: Yeah, it’s definitely motivating. I feel like I’m just really competitive in whatever I do. Not really being in the discussion — that’s extra motivation.
DD: What will your offseason look like? How do your days look when you’re not prepping for tournament golf?
ST: Funny enough, this is my first real offseason. Right out of college [in 2020], I was just playing mini-tours every week. Then, in 2021, I was in the Korn Ferry finals, leading straight to the Tour. Last year, I played every event I got in. So, yeah, this offseason has been really nice so far. Just catching up with family, hanging out with friends, putting the sticks away for, y’know, a week at a time. I do get in the gym a little more, which is nice. But, yeah, I’m on the couch a lot. I’m taking it pretty chill this fall.
DD: When you’re home in Houston, do you have a crew to play golf with?
ST: When I lived in California, I used to play alone quite a bit, just because I love 4 or 5 p.m. twilight nines. But here we have such a good group of guys: three old teammates from Pepperdine and seven or eight other guys that play mini-tours, Korn Ferry. There’s some Tour guys around that are cool, too, but I mostly stick with my crew — guys that take my money a decent amount.
DD: Does that keep you humble, losing to guys playing mini-tours?
ST: That’s the thing. Everyone just expects me to beat up on these guys, but if I don’t shoot six, seven, eight under a round, I lose money. They’re super hungry and they’re very good. The talent in golf is so crazy right now that it’s a fine line.
DD: Have you been goal-setting for the new season?
ST: To be honest, I haven’t thought that far ahead. My goal was to just get into all the majors again, and I’m hoping I’ve checked that off. But mostly I’m not worried about the results as much as just feeling like I’m making good progress and staying healthy, then see where I go from there.
DD: What’s one non-golf thing that’s been occupying brain space? NBA preseason? I’ve read you’re into chess theory.
ST: I’ve played fantasy football for nine years, and this is the first time I only have two leagues. For a while I thought three was a sweet spot, but, really, it’s two, and one of them has to be a big-time buy-in. So this year I’ve been rejuvenated by fantasy football. And, yeah, chess theory is always on my mind. Openings are the worst part of my game, so I’ve been trying to find the same six to eight moves to start. I just want to get into the action. I think that’s where I’m the best.