Friday, February 23, 2024
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Theegala clings to one-shot lead over Koepka

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Rookie Sahith Theegala closed with a stunning par save to fire a two-under par 69 and seize a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the US PGA Phoenix Open.

The 24-year-old American birdied the 17th and blasted an 87-foot shot from greenside rough at the 18th within inches of the cup for a tap-in par to stand on 14-under 199 after 54 holes at TPC Scottsdale.

“It’s really good to see that my game when it’s good can keep up with some of the best in the game. It’s really humbling,” Theegala said.

“It definitely showed me a lot, that I seem to belong out here.”

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, closed with a 17-foot par putt to shoot 68 and stand one off the lead with a pack of fellow Americans – Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, Talor Gooch, Patrick Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler – two adrift on 201.

“I putted beautifully,” Koepka said. “I’m striking it well. I’m pleased. One back, not where I want to be. I’ve just got to go play good tomorrow.”

World number 318 Theegala, an amateur standout at Pepperdine University making only his 24th PGA start, lost a two-stroke lead with a double bogey at the par-4 second hole after finding a bunker off the tee.

“I made two mistakes in a row. That can’t happen,” he said. “I was like, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ after that.

“I caught my groove for a little bit there in the middle of the round. The back nine was a grind for sure. Really happy with the way I fought back. (I’ll) just keep hammering, more of the same.”