Why this pro isn’t feeling overconfident after breakout rookie season
Nearly two months after his rookie-season run to the Tour Championship, Sahith Theegala is still trying to soak it all in as a PGA Tour member.
“I’m still trying to learn as much as possible and I’ve just been getting more and more comfortable,” Theegala said ahead of the Zozo Championship Wednesday in Japan. “I think I mentioned that at The Open as well. Yeah, still feel very excited and very nervous about each and every event I tee it up at. I haven’t lost that yet, which is good, but I still feel every single event is very, very important.”
At The Open in July, Theegala was in the top 10 through 36 holes thanks to rounds of 69 and 68, resulting in his first made-cut in a major. But he wasn’t able to keep pace with the record scoring that week at St. Andrews, shooting even par on the weekend.
Still, Theegala was humbled by the experience.
“I’m just happy that I was even here,” he said after the final round at the Old Course. “I didn’t even expect to play here.”
Theegala is quickly becoming one of the more open interviewees on the PGA Tour. He had back-to-back top-15 finishes in the first two FedEx Cup Playoff events to join Cameron Young as the only two rookies last season to make the field at the Tour Championship. After securing his spot in the field, Theegala said he still couldn’t believe he was even on the PGA Tour.
“The fact that I’m even on the PGA Tour is pretty absurd,” Theegala said after the final round of the BMW Championship. “My only expectation was really to keep my card, and obviously I’ve blown that out of the water.”
Making the Tour Championship as one of the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings is no small feat, especially considering how much emphasis the PGA Tour is putting on it. The Tour announced everyone who makes the field at East Lake will now be given spots in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, as well as two-year exemptions on Tour and exemptions into the following year’s majors.
“Oh, that was such a bonus,” Theegala said Wednesday of the Tournament of Champions invite. “I didn’t even know about it until really I think Tuesday or Wednesday of East Lake was when Phil came up to me and he’s like, ‘Yeah, we just approved you guys playing in Sentry.’ That will be incredible kicking the year off in Maui. I don’t even think there’s 40 players, like 40 players, big purse. It’s just a treat, such a bonus and hopefully, I can treat that — well, the golf will be very focused, but treat that as a vacation, too.”
Now, Theegala is headed into his second year on Tour, his status secured, with the goal of picking up his first win. He came close at the Travelers Championship two weeks before The Open, but double-bogeyed the 72nd hole to lose by two to Xander Schauffele. He also led the WM Phoenix Open in February as a sponsor’s exemption until a bogey on the short par-4 17th in the final round.
But even after his successful debut season, Theegala said his expectations still haven’t changed. The success has brought him only more flexibility.
“Nothing’s really changed,” he said. “Obviously, I have a lot of opportunities now this year in terms of picking my schedule and all that stuff, but no, life’s the same. I have really no expectations even from last year’s really good year. Just going to try to keep getting a little bit better.
“Golf’s crazy, the game comes and goes. You’ve just got to play well when it comes, so that’s all I’m kind of looking forward to.”