Sahith Theegala, playing the WM Phoenix Open on a sponsor exemption, was asked what he would be doing if not invited through that route. “Rest. I wasn’t even going to do the Monday because I played four weeks in a row. And it’s probably the first time in my life that I played five weeks in a row, but I’ve been pretty good the last couple weeks of taking a day or two off here and there and not grinding too much on the practice stuff. But, yeah, I would be doing nothing.” Instead? He’s doing something. Here are three things you need to know after Thursday’s delayed-due-to-darkness first round at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.
Sahith Theegala leads
Only darkness could slow Theegala, his round stopped on the 8th hole (he started on the back nine) due to a lack of daylight. Before that, he birdied his first hole, birdied 13-16 and added two more on the front nine for a seven-under total and a one-stroke lead. K.H. Lee was in second after a six-under 65, and four golfers, including defending champion Brooks Koepka, shot 66s.
“Obviously really good day,” Theegala said. “I got off to a pretty hot start. I had a couple — it was nice to see one go in on the first hole — that always kind of sets the tone for the day. But the big key for me like always in my game is just putting my driver in the fairway, and I was able to do that early and often. I think the wind kind of laid down for us a little bit at the end there. So was able to take advantage of some opportunities, and, yeah, super happy with the way I started.
“Obviously I got a little chippy at the end — I started hitting my driver a little squirrely at the end — so this is a welcome stop, honestly.”
Brooks Koepka is two shots back
Koepka, who’s won at TPC Scottsdale twice, birdied his first hole (the 10th), bogeyed his third and birdied five other holes in his 66. While he hit just six of 14 fairways off the tee, it was his driver, he said, that helped him sign for his lowest score since last August.
“Made some tweaks with the driver,” Koepka said. “It’s one thing to do it at home back at Medalist and see it perform there, but to actually come out and drive the ball in a tournament and hit it how I wanted to, spin was great, flight was good, shape was great. So that was nice to see.
“I feel like I’ve been playing good. It’s just been the driver and just tweaks in the setup, and it’s tough to play out of the rough at Torrey Pines. But, yeah, everything seems to be clicking and a lot earlier than what it’s normally been for me.”
Rickie Fowler shoots even par
In all, 69 players broke par. Among those with work to do to make the cut are Rickie Fowler, who shot an even-par 71; Viktor Hovland, who shot a 72; Tony Finau, who shot a 74; and Harold Varner, last week’s winner in Saudi Arabia, who shot a 75.