Indian American Theegala in shared lead as Atwal misses cut in first event of new season on PGA TOUR. Image Source: IANS News
Napa, California : Indian-American Sahith Theegala, who finished 31st las season and missed the Tour Championships by a whisker, has opened the new season in a spectacular manner. With a stunning 64 following up on his first round 68, Theegala looking for his maiden success on the PGA TOUR, is now the joint leader with Korea’s KH Kim (65-67) at 12-under.
Kim, who will turn 25 on Sunday and hopes to get the win to make it a perfect birthday at Silverado Resort’s North Course.
Another Asian, Sangmoon Bae of Korea, a two-time PGA TOUR winner was third with 67-66 one shot behind the leading duo in the first of seven re-imagined PGA TOUR Fall events.
India’s Arjun Atwal shot 77-74 and missed the cut, as did another Indian American Akshay Bhatia, who carded 73-69 as the cut fell at 3-under.
Theegala, who is fully exempted for 2024 after finishing 31st in the FedExCup Playoffs, is happy that his decision to sign up for the Fortinet Championship is paying off as he chases a first PGA TOUR victory. “I love California events and west coast swings. I love this golf course. This was one of my first sponsor invites I got, and it’s just a great event for all my family and friends to come out to. I guess more importantly, It’s just good vibes. It’s still a PGA TOUR event with all the perks, and these guys are so good. And to me, honestly, it doesn’t feel too much different. I’m such an addict, it’s tough for me to sit around and do nothing too. I felt like three weeks was ample break. I was fired up missing East Lake (TOUR Championship) by one, so just kind of wanted to play a tournament.”
Theegala felt good about his own round that included a chip-in for eagle out of a greenside bunker on No. 5.
Justin Thomas shot 5-under 67 after first round 69 and it left him four strokes off the pace. A captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, he is looking to get into the right frame before the team event.
Two-time defending champion Max Homa, also on the Ryder Cup team, had a 66 to match Thomas at 8 under. U.S. captain Zach Johnson (74) and co-captain Stewart Cink (72) were tied at 1-under 143 and missed the cut in the final tune-up before the Ryder Cup in two weeks.
Making a return to Napa, California where he made his full TOUR debut some 12 months ago, Kim continued to showcase his ball-striking prowess as all his birdies were from within 12 feet. His only blemish came on the par-4 13th hole, his third of the day. However, that did little to deter him from challenging for a career first PGA TOUR victory.
Kim, who’s currently 83rd on the FedExCup rankings, is feeling more at home at Silverado Resort in what is his second trip to Napa and entered the week better prepared.
Bae, who won the tournament in 2014, notched seven birdies, including three over the four holes starting from No. 5, to offset a lone bogey. Currently ranked a lowly 222nd in the FedExCup standings, Bae has a chance to take advantage of the revamped PGA TOUR Fall Schedule to secure his TOUR card by being inside the top-125. Of course a victory would make things easier as it comes with a two-year winner’s exemption.
The tournament in Napa is the first of seven that comprise the FedExCup Fall. While this is the first event of the season, there is still plenty to play for. Players who didn’t finish in the top 50 can continue to earn points, with those finishing between Nos. 51-60 getting exemption for the first two signature events of 2024 while players within the top 125 retain their TOUR cards.