ACKSON, Miss. — In his first weekend contention on the PGA Tour, California rookie Sahith Theegala is handling the pressure and his golf just fine in the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Theegala began the back nine Sunday (PH time) at Country Club of Jackson with three straight birdies, had an eagle chip spin 360 degrees around the cup and finished with a 5-under 67 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.
Cameron Tringale had a pair of eagles from long range with his putter and his wedge and matched his career best on the PGA Tour with a 62. He was one shot behind, along with Sam Burns and Denny McCarthy, who each shot 65.
Theegala was at 18-under 198.
“Definitely a little nerves in there for sure,” Theegala said. “But I think people have said before pressure is a privilege, and I’m trying to use those nerves to my advantage.”
Will Zalatoris, the rookie of the year last season while playing on unlimited sponsor exemptions, was tied for the lead with Theegala and Nick Watney. Zalatoris didn’t make a birdie over the final 12 holes. He shot 72 and fell five shots behind in a tie for 16th.
Theegala was the consensus NCAA player of the year as a senior at Pepperdine, which was cut short by the pandemic. He had to bide his time between the Korn Ferry Tour and limited PGA Tour starts until making it to the big leagues with ease at the Korn Ferry Tour finals.
Theegala has a chance to earn a two-year exemption and a spot in the Masters and PGA Championship next year if he can hold on.
The list of challengers includes Burns, who already won this year at the Valspar Championship and was in the final conversation to be a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup.
Tringale is still looking for his first win in his 311st start on the PGA Tour. The 62 matched his low from the RSM Classic at Sea Island last November.
Fifteen players were separated by four shots, and nine of those players have yet to win on the PGA Tour. (AP)