Sahith Theegala seeks to close 2022 with a win
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Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
Sahith Theegala sticks second tight to yield birdie at The RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Sahith Theegala had the luxury to relax this offseason.
He has a two-year exemption after qualifying for this year’s TOUR Championship, a well-earned reward for a successful rookie season.
He could’ve returned home to California or his adopted hometown of Houston and kicked up his feet after an eventful first year that included several close calls with victory.
There’s just one problem.
“I’m an addict and I just love to play,” he said.
The RSM Classic, the final PGA TOUR event of 2022, is Theegala’s 38th start since the start of last season, one off the TOUR high. It’s his sixth start of this fall season, as well.
His decision to tee it up one last time could pay big dividends, and provide the perfect ending to a year that began with Theegala just hoping to keep his card.
He is just one shot off the lead entering the final round at Sea Island Resort. He had his share of close calls this year, from Arizona to Connecticut and several stops in between and is poised to capitalize on those experiences.
He broke par both times he was a 54-hole leader last season but didn’t go low enough to take home the trophy. There were heartbreaking finishes at the WM Phoenix Open and Travelers Championship, where he was undone by drives that found trouble. But Theegala has won fans with the poise with which he handled those heartbreaks.
Even though Sunday’s high temperature isn’t forecast to get above 55 degrees, he’ll likely need a low one if he wants to end 2022 on a winning note. Even when the weather turns ugly, as it can in the fall on the Atlantic coast, Sea Island’s Seaside Course is forgiving enough to allow plenty of birdies. Patrick Rodgers, who shares The RSM Classic’s 54-hole lead with Ben Martin, knows that better than anyone.
It was here three years ago that he shot 61-62 on the weekend to post the lowest score in TOUR history over the final two rounds of a tournament. It wasn’t enough to win, however, as he lost in a playoff to Charles Howell III.
Like Theegala, Rodgers is a former collegiate star seeking his maiden victory. Rodgers, 30, has had to wait a bit longer, however. Theegala won the Haskins Award as college golf’s top player two years ago. Rodgers earned that honor in 2014, as part of a career at Stanford that saw him break Tiger Woods’ school record for lowest scoring average (70.3) and tie Woods’ mark for career wins (11). Rodgers has been a runner-up three times in his 226 starts on TOUR. He had another close call earlier this fall at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, where he shot 65 in the final round to finish third, two shots behind winner Seamus Power.
Ten players will start The RSM’s final round within two shots of the lead, and many of those players, like Rodgers and Theegala, will be looking for their first win while others, such as Martin and Andrew Putnam, will be looking to win again several years after their maiden title.
Putnam, Theegala and Adam Svensson will start the final round at 13 under par, one off the lead. Svensson shot Saturday’s low round, a 62, to move into contention. He will play in Sunday’s final group alongside the co-leaders.
Putnam and Theegala, who will play in Sunday’s second-to-last group with local favorite Brian Harman, share an alma mater (Pepperdine) and a caddie connection. Theegala’s caddie, Carl Smith, was working for Putnam before going on Theegala’s bag at last year’s Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Putnam, who won his lone TOUR title at the 2018 Barracuda Championship, has made the cut in all eight of his starts this fall, including a runner-up to Keegan Bradley at THE ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. Martin, who regained his TOUR card at this year’s Korn Ferry Tour Finals, won the 2014 Shriners Children’s Open but has struggled with back injuries since.
Among the players who are two back are Presidents Cup participant Taylor Pendrith; another former Haskins Award winner looking for his first win, Beau Hossler; and this season’s breakout rookie, Taylor Montgomery, who ranks 10th in the FedExCup. He has finished in the top 25 in all but one of his six starts.
Power, the FedExCup leader, will start the final round three back. Several players have the opportunity to wrest the top spot from him and start 2023 atop the standings.
But first, there is one round remaining in 2022. It promises to be an eventful one that will change someone’s career.
“You kind of want to leave,” said Theegala, “with a good taste in your mouth.”
Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.