The FedEx Cup Fall found its first champion as Sahith Theegala claimed the 2023 Fortinet Championship at 21 under for a two-stroke victory over S.H. Kim. Nabbing his first career victory on the PGA Tour, Theegala leaned on pristine wedge play and the overwhelming support from his camp to make his long-awaited entry into the winner's circle.
One of six players in the field — along with Eric Cole, Cam Davis, Brendon Todd, Andrew Putnam and two-time defending champion Max Homa — to lock up their signature event status in 2024 with a strong season, Theegala still came into the week with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as a bogey on the 72nd hole of last week's BMW Championship saw the California native drop outside the top 30 who qualified for the Tour Championship.?
His victory in Napa has righted those wrongs as Theegala is now qualified for all four major championships in 2024 marking the second straight year he will tee it up in the four biggest events.
"It doesn't feel real," Theegala said. "It's probably not going to set in for awhile, but that was a lot of good golf and some of the most fun I have ever had in my life. I had so many family and friends cheering me on, and the support I have is mind blowing. I go to bed at night these past few days and I can't believe how many people are cheering for me and rooting for me. This feeling is incredible, and I couldn't have done it without my whole team and everyone out here. This is such a team effort and for me to put it together like this, it means the world."
Theegala's Sunday quest for his first trophy began in comforting fashion as the Pepperdine product rattled off three birdies in his first five holes to expand his overnight lead to five. Adversity came in the form of two bogeys across his next five, but Theegala kept his cool as his already built-in margin gave the loose-swinging right-hander plenty of room for error.
Charges would materialize early in the back nine from Kim, Cole and Davis, but by that time Theegala had already placed one hand on the hardware. Once a left-to-right slider from just outside 20 feet fell for his sixth birdie of the day on the par-4 14th, the 25-year-old's second hand took a firm grasp as well.
"I secretly love the cheering," Theegala said of his 35 friends and family in attendance. "It gets me fired up just knowing that I have that support, no matter if it is good golf or bad golf. They have my back, and I hope they know I have their back too. I can't express how I feel, but it's a team win. It's not just a win for me, it's a win for the whole family and everyone."
Theegala's play and his fans' enthusiasm may have stolen the show in Napa, but inquiring minds were still interested in the form of Justin Thomas. Playing in the Fortinet Championship as a tuneup for the 2023 Ryder Cup, the American appeared closer to the golfer that has tallied 15 PGA Tour wins than that who failed to qualify for the 2023 FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Registering his first top-five finish since the 2023 WM Phoenix Open in February, Thomas was strong throughout the bag with noted improvements in his iron play and putting. He clipped his U.S. Ryder Cup teammate, Homa, by a pair as the two now head to Rome fresh off quality outings in wine country.