SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA (AP) – In the WM Phoenix Open, where newcomer Sahith Theegala topped a leaderboard as congested as the course, Sam Ryder brought down the house with a hole-in-one on the stadium 16th hole on Saturday.
On the 124-yard hole, Ryder’s wedge shot landed just right and short, bounced a few times, spun left, and slid in. The 17,000-seat hole’s raucous fans flung beverages in the air in excitement, littering the field with bottles, cans, and cups, causing a 15-minute delay.
Ryder, who was eight strokes behind Theegala following an even-par 71, remarked, “I don’t know how I could select a hole over this one.” “I don’t believe any other hole has the same level of energy as this one.”
Since the tournament moved to the course in 1997, Ryder’s first tour ace was the 10th at No. 16, his first since Francesco Molinari in the third round in 2015. Tiger Woods did it in 1997, before the hole was surrounded by grandstands.
Ryder stated, “It simply ended up being a flawless 54-degree wedge.” “Adrenaline or whatever it is, everything usually plays a little shorter in there.”
On another beautiful, 80-degree day in the Valley of the Sun, Theegala overcame a double bogey on the par-4 second to score a 69 in front of around 200,000 fans at TPC Scottsdale.
Theegala exclaimed, “What a day.” “There have been so many ups and downs.” “It was insane,” says the narrator.
Theegala, who was playing on a sponsor exemption, shot a 14-under 199 total to lead defending champion Brooks Koepka by one stroke. Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, and Talor Gooch, the FedEx Cup champions, were another stroke back.
“Right now, I’m completely exhausted,” Theegala admitted. “I probably struck it five times in the desert.” My ball was walked on twice, and twice it was picked up. “It’s very taxing.”
Since Martin Laird in the 2020 Shriners Children’s Open, Theegala is attempting to become the first golfer to win on a sponsor exemption. The 24-year-old Indian-American was born and raised in Chino Hills, California, and attended Pepperdine University. He won all three major college player of the year awards in 2020.
He’s competing for the fifth week in a row, with his parents and other family members in attendance for the last four games in California and Arizona.
“Seeing them was difficult,” Theegala remarked. “I was completely immersed in a sea of people.”
Theegala responded with birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 8 after hitting the lip of a fairway bunker en route to a double bogey on No. 2. He bogeyed the par-3 11th, birdied the par-5 13th, and sank a 15-footer on the par-4 17th.
“Obviously, I got off to a horrible start, but I’m proud of how I fought back,” Theegala said. “But I’m still trying to take everything in.” There’s simply too much going on there. That is to say, it is a good thing. I had a lot of fun with the supporters out there.”
Koepka finished with a 68. In 2015, the four-time major champion became the last player to win the tournament in his first appearance.
“I’m playing well,” Koepka said. “Just go out and play a strong round tomorrow and see what happens.” “All I have to do now is keep placing it the way I did.” I have faith in myself. I’m happy with where my game is right now, and we’ll see.”
Before settling for a 62, Scheffler flirted with his second 59. He started the day nine strokes behind Theegala, looking for his maiden tour victory.
“I think it’s going to be a good time,” Scheffler added. “It would be a little tiring if it was like this every week, but one week a year is quite spectacular,” she says.
Scheffler shot a 7-under 27 on the front nine and added two birdies on the back nine. He shot 59 at the 2020 Northern Trust, the last player on the tour to accomplish it. Jim Furyk is the first player on the PGA Tour to break 60 twice, with scores of 58 and 59.
Cantlay, who was making his first appearance in the event, shot a 68. Gooch finished with a 67 after birdieing the last three holes, including a 40-footer on 18.
Schauffele, who was 14 under par at the time of the turn, scored a 69. After driving into the water on the par-4 11th, he made a double bogey.
Hideki Matsuyama (66), Tom Hoge (67), Max Homa (68), Alex Noren (67), and Adam Hadwin (67) were all at 11 under (68).
Matsuyama, the 2016 and 2017 Masters winner, is making his first appearance since winning the Sony Open in Hawaii a month ago. Hoge earned his first PGA Tour championship last week at Pebble Beach.
DIVOTS: Ryder’s ace won $1 million for Space City Gym in Humble, Texas, in the “WM’s Million Dollar Shot” event. Space City Gym was one of 20 WM small-business customers who were chosen at random as contest finalists, with each of the 20 finalists receiving a threesome of players. After a 68, top-ranked Jon Rahm stood at 8 under par. A few miles from the course, the former Arizona State star lives.