Golf roundup: Sahith Theegala breaks through on PGA Tour

AP photo by Eric Risberg / Sahith Theegala waves on the 18th green of the Silverado Resort's North Course after winning the Fortinet Championship on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory in Napa, Calif.
AP photo by Eric Risberg / Sahith Theegala waves on the 18th green of the Silverado Resort's North Course after winning the Fortinet Championship on Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory in Napa, Calif.

NAPA, Calif. — Sahith Theegala made more than enough birdies to cover for his mistakes while playing with the lead on Sunday, shooting a 4-under-par 68 for a two-shot victory at the Fortinet Championship, his first win in 74 starts on the PGA Tour.

The 25-year-old Theegala, who began the day with a two-shot lead, pulled away by playing his first five holes in 3 under while being followed by a large, jubilant group of friends and relatives, including his parents.

"No matter the good golf or the bad golf, they just have my back. It's a team win," Theegala said, his mom and dad by his side on the 18th green of the North Course at the Silverado Resort. "It's not just a win for me, it's a win for the whole family."

Theegala finished with seven birdies and three bogeys, including one after he hit a tee shot that landed in a fairway bunker on a different hole. With a three-shot lead, he hit his drive and his layup into the rough on the par-5 18th hole and tapped in for a 6. He finished the 72-hole event at 21-under 267.

South Korea's S.H. Kim (68) was second, and Australia's Cam Davis (70) was another shot behind. Kim, one of the best putters on tour, played a bogey-free round and had four birdies on the back nine.

Justin Thomas had his worst round of the week in his final tuneup before helping represent the United States at the Ryder Cup that starts Sept. 29 in Italy, closing with a 72 to finish six shots back. Max Homa, the tournament's two-time reigning champion and another American player for the Ryder Cup, closed with a 69 to tie for seventh.

Luke List (69) tied for 25th at 8 under, and fellow Baylor School graduate Stephan Jaeger (71) shared 45th at 6 under.

Theegala, a Californian who played college golf at Pepperdine and the son of Indian immigrants, made the Tour Championship as a rookie last year, then fell one spot short of a return to the event last month. Along the way, he had close calls in several tournaments, endearing himself to fans as they rooted for his breakthrough victory.

He overcame his mistakes this time with steady iron play and superb putting. Theegala's three bogeys Sunday were one more than he had in the first three rounds combined, but each time he steadied himself.

Theegala dropped a shot on the par-4 sixth hole after hitting his tee shot way right into a fairway bunker on No. 9. He responded by hitting a wedge shot that put the ball 13 inches from the hole for a birdie on the par-4 eighth, then made another bogey on No. 10.

Theegala made birdies on three of the next six holes, and after a par on the 17th, he was able to soak in the cheers from the gallery as he walked toward the 18th green.

  photo  AP file photo by Kin Cheung / Ryan Fox won the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the DP World Tour, on Sunday for his fourth career victory on the European circuit.

Fox wins BMW PGA Championship

VIRGINIA WATER, England — Ryan Fox overcame a three-shot deficit and a triple bogey early in the final round with six birdies on the back nine — the last one from six feet on the 18th hole — for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot victory over English players Tyrrell Hatton (66) and Aaron Rai (68) in the BMW PGA Championship.

Fox started shaking his right fist as the final birdie putt was inches from going in, the final stroke of a masterpiece over his last 15 holes that carried the 36-year-old from New Zealand to his fourth title on the Europe-based DP World Tour, and by the far the biggest victory of his career.

"I played great," Fox said. "Pretty much didn't miss a shot from the third hole onwards and saw a couple of putts go in, and it was pretty cool feeling on the last to know I had one to win and actually make it."

Fox finished the 72-hole event at 18-under 270.

Ludvig Aberg, the Swedish rookie going for his second straight win, never recovered from an atrocious start of his own Sunday. He started with a two-shot lead, but it was long gone by the time he made the turn.

Aberg took two double bogeys on the front nine with poor chips and a missed putt, and he missed five putts from inside six feet as he closed with a 76 and tied for 10th.

That turned the back nine at Wentworth into a free-for-all among four players chasing a victory in flagship event on the European circuit in the rain and with a one-hour delay from lightning in the area.

Hatton opened with five birdies in seven holes and had the lead until a tee shot that sailed out of bounds on the 15th hole, and he did well to escape with a bogey. Hatton birdied the 18th to momentarily tie Fox for the lead.

Rai boldly hit the par-5 18th green with a fairway metal, and his 40-foot eagle putt to take the lead caught the left edge of the cup. He tapped in for a birdie, joining Hatton in the lead. Spain's Jon Rahm needed an eagle on the 18th, but his 20-foot putt narrowly missed. He shot a 68 and wound up two strokes behind.

That set the stage for Fox, who chose to lay up on the 18th, not trusting his lie in moderate rough with water in front of the green. His wedge shot spun back to six feet, and he made the winner.

None of this seemed possible to Fox when he drove out of bounds on No. 3, went into a bunker and took a triple bogey. At the time, he was five shots out of the lead.

"I certainly didn't think I'd be talking to you after the third hole," Fox said to Sky Sports. "I don't know what to think at the moment. I've always struggled around here. To have a back nine like that, especially with how I started the day, it's amazing.

"I just tried to steady the ship, and I played great."

  photo  AP file photo by Vasha Hunt / Steve Stricker earned his sixth PGA Tour Champions victory of 2023 when he won the Sanford International on Sunday.

Stricker secures sixth Champions victory of season

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Steve Stricker holed a 20-foot eagle putt to catch South Korea's K.J. Choi, then picked up a pair of late birdies that sent him to a 4-under 66 to win the Sanford International for his sixth PGA Tour Champions victory this season.

Stricker earned $300,000, leaving him just short of $4 million for the year and setting a record for most money in a single season on the 50-and-older circuit. He has not finished worse than eighth all year, and three of those six wins have come in senior majors. He won the Sanford International for the third time.

"It was a battle," Stricker said. "Always on these Sundays when you're trying to win, it's a battle. But it's so rewarding when you do it."

Stricker started the final round with a one-shot lead but found himself trying to catch Choi, who got off to a fast start and closed with a 65.

Stricker was two behind when he hit a good tee shot down the left side of the fairway on the par-5 12th at Minnehaha Country Club, leaving him a mid-iron shot to 20 feet that set up his eagle. He drove into a bunker and got up and down for a birdie on the 15th for a one-shot lead.

On the par-5 16th, he was out of position off the tee and had to lay up, but he hit a wedge shot to eight feet and holed the birdie putt to stay one ahead. Choi played in the group in front of him and bogeyed the last hole, giving Stricker a two-shot lead and room for error.

Stricker three-putted the 18th from long range and finished the 54-hole event at 16-under 194.

"I kind of limped it in," Stricker said. "But I knew I had a couple of shots to play with."

Choi, trying to win for the second time on the senior circuit, shot 30 on the front to set the target and didn't make a bogey until the final hole.

Joe Durant birdied his last three holes for a 68 to finish alone in third, one stroke ahead of Germany's Bernhard Langer (64).

Stricker is still three wins away from the record for most titles in a single season, and only five tournaments remain on the schedule.

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