Sahith Theegala found himself in the hunt several times during this past PGA Tour season but victory eluded him.
He finally got a taste thanks to a clutch 15-foot birdie putt on the 54th hole Sunday at the QBE Shootout. Theegala and partner Tom Hoge came to the closing par four at Tiburon deadlocked with Charlie Hoffman and Ryan Palmer, who controlled this event for the first 36 holes.
But over the final 18, Hoge and Theegala lit it up in the four-ball (best ball) competition and found themselves tied with Hoffman and Palmer after they failed to birdie the par five 17th.
All four in that final group hit good approach shots into 18. Hoge missed his birdie putt from just outside 15 feet than watched as Theegala ran his in to get the pair to 24-under par. Still, they had to wait while Palmer and Hoffman eyeballed their birdie putts to send the proceeding to a playoff. Palmer missed from around 13 feet then Hoffman missed from 12 and QBE first-timers Hoge and Theegala got the win.
Hoge and Theegala finished at 34-under par, adding their best-ball 62 (10-under) to 60s in the first (scramble) and second (modified alternate shot) rounds.
“It’s nice to get a taste of victory because it’s so hard out here,” Theegala said holing the final birdie putt. He hurt himself on the first hole, pulling a muscle in his side as the result of what he called, “a bad swing.” But Hoge picked the team up early. “I knew I had to pick it up for him,” Hoge said, “but I knew he was gonna hit some great shots down the stretch.”
It was a free-for-all down the stretch. Hoge and Theegala had Hoffman and Palmer after them the entire back nine. They weren’t the only team in the hunt. Former champions at the QBE, Matt Kuchar and Harris English, were in the thick of it with six birdies over the back nine but couldn’t quite keep up with the two teams in the final group.
Palmer pulled off the recovery shot of the day at the 17th when his team desperately needed a birdie. He was over the green with his second, he needed to get his third close but had a tough, uphill shot with only 12 feet of green to work with. His third shot didn’t get up the hill and his ball rolled back down to just about the same position where he hit that third shot. He then holed out the next one for an improbable birdie that sent the teams to the 54th hole tied after Theegala and Hoge both failed to birdie the reachable par five.
But in the end, Theegala got that winner to drop. “It was really great because I had my parents here. So glad they could see it,” he said with a big smile.
Five Players Earn Champions Tour Cards:
Toughest tour to gain entry? That’s easy. The Champions Tour by far.
Seventy-eight players made it to the final stage in Scottsdale at the TPC Scottsdale this past week and five, yes, only five earned playing privileges.
Medalist was Aussie Richard Green, a three-time winner on the DP World Tour who was at one time ranked as high as No. 29 in the world rankings. He shot 18-under par.
Runnerup to Green was a familiar name on the over-50 set — Wes Short Jr., who lost his car but regained it with a solo second at 14-under.
Three players tied for third at 13-under — Tim O’Neal, Brian Cooper and a second Aussie — David McKenzie.
Cooper and O’Neal are African-American. Cooper spent a lot of his life as a club pro in the Pittsburgh area and battled his way through depression and realized his dream.
“I wouldn’t be here today if I had not been honest about my struggles,” Cooper said after winning a card. “It’s been a long road. I saw this happening years ago, and when it doesn’t happen, you start to lose faith. You start to question whether you can do it. This is not an easy Tour to get in. I was willing to walk away because in the years I had (Associate Membership), I had done more than most, Monday qualified a bunch, and I was extremely proud of that.
“It’s pretty cool right now. It really is. To know that you’re one of five in the world to get this chance, I mean, what are the numbers?”
O’Neal is an alum of the APGA Tour. He turned 50 this summer and was overjoyed at winning one of the five cards. “Man, I’m really at a loss of words,” O’Neal said after posing for a group photo with his fellow Q-School graduates. “I’ve been going to Q-School for a long time, and for me to get status, my first year going to Champions Tour Q-School, just crazy happy right now. I’m at a loss for words, but it’s been a long time coming for me.”
Champions Q-School Scoreboard: