NAPA, Calif. — Sahith Theegala made more than enough birdies to cover for his mistakes while playing with the lead on Sunday, shooting a 4-under 68 for a two-shot victory at the Fortinet Championship, his first win in 74 starts on the PGA Tour.
The 25-year-old Theegala, who began the day with a two-shot lead, pulled away by playing his first five holes in 3 under while being followed by a large, jubilant group of friends and relatives, including his parents.
“No matter the good golf or the bad golf, they just have my back. It’s a team win,” Theegala said, his mom and dad by his side on the 18th green. “It’s not just a win for me, it’s a win for the whole family.”
Theegala finished with seven birdies and three bogeys, including one after he hit a tee shot that landed in a fairway bunker on a different hole. With a three-shot lead, he hit his drive and his layup into the rough on the par-5 18th hole and tapped in for a 6. He finished at 21-under 267.
Justin Thomas had his worst round of the week in his final tuneup for the Ryder Cup in Rome, closing with an even-par 72 to finish six shots back. Max Homa, the two-time defending champion and Thomas’ U.S. teammate, closed with a 69 to tie for seventh.
A Californian and the son of Indian immigrants who played in college at Pepperdine, Theegala made the Tour Championship as a rookie last year, then fell one spot short of a return to East Lake last month. Along the way, he had close calls at Phoenix, Hartford and Sea Island, endearing himself to fans.
Theegala overcame his mistakes this time with steady iron play and superb putting. His three bogeys were one more than he had in the first three rounds combined. Each time, he steadied himself.
Theegala dropped a shot on the par-4 sixth hole after hitting his tee shot way right into a fairway bunker on No. 9. He responded by hitting a wedge 13 inches from the hole for birdie on the par-4 eighth, then made another bogey on No. 10.
Theegala birdied three of the next six holes, and after a par on the 17th, he was able to soak in the cheers from the gallery as he walked toward the 18th green.
Kim, one of the best putters on tour, played bogey-free and had four birdies on the back nine.