Sahith Theegala's Maiden Victory at Fortinet Championship
Sahith Theegala secured his first victory on the PGA TOUR at the Fortinet Championship, and his win exemplified his unique approach to golf. Theegala has never relied on finding the fairway off the tee; instead, he embraces the challenge of creative shot-making, an unrelenting short game, and a hot putter.
Throughout the tournament, Theegala hit just 47% of fairways, never exceeding seven in a round. However, his approach to the game is not to get upset about wayward drives but to see them as opportunities to showcase his skills.
One memorable moment came on the 14th hole, where Theegala found himself in the rough off the fairway, faced with a challenging shot due to overhanging tree limbs. Rather than getting flustered, he relished the chance to display his problem-solving abilities.
For Theegala, golf is like a game of chess, and he enjoys analyzing moves ahead and exploring different possibilities. He chose to hit a 110-yard shot, which required the ball to jump out of the rough, slide under the branches, and catch the front edge of the green with some spin. Theegala executed the shot perfectly, demonstrating his mental prowess and creativity.
His caddie, Carl Smith, encouraged him with a simple "Commit," and Theegala made a shot that seemed improbable. His ability to think strategically and execute shots under challenging conditions is reminiscent of top players like Jordan Spieth.
Theegala's game revolves around thinking in shapes rather than relying on a straight shot. He grew up imagining trees in front of him on the driving range, forcing himself to practice draws and fades. In his mind, his swing was never good enough for a straight shot. He thinks in shapes, which allows him to adapt to various situations on the course.
Despite missing more than half of his fairways during the tournament, Theegala managed to hit 75% of the greens, showcasing his ability to recover and score effectively.
While Theegala is known for his relaxed and easy-going demeanor, his journey to professional success hasn't been without challenges. One defining moment came at the 2022 WM Phoenix Open, where he was a rookie on TOUR and tied for the lead on the 17th hole. Unfortunately, a drive that ended up in the water dashed his hopes of victory.
Theegala's father, Murali, comforted him with the words, "You'll get your day soon." Despite the disappointment, his performance against top players like Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, and Xander Schauffele signaled his emergence as a rising star.
Throughout his career, Theegala has followed his unique approach to the game, focusing on creative shot-making, short-game finesse, and a strong mental game. His maiden victory at the Fortinet Championship in front of family and friends was a testament to his dedication and perseverance, and it has opened doors to even greater dreams and aspirations in professional golf.