Theegala tops pack after first round of season-opening Sentry

USA’s Sahith Theegala leads a strong field after day one of the PGA Tour’s season-opening event at The Sentry in Hawaii; Theegala sits on nine under after opening round, with five players in Collin Morikawa, Camilo Villegas, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Viktor Hovland sitting one shot back

Last Updated: 05/01/24 6:48am

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Round one highlights from the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour.
Round one highlights from the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour.

Sahith Theegala made his 10th birdie of the day at the par-five 18th hole to inch ahead of a star-studded pack at the last moment, taking sole possession of the first-round lead at The Sentry on Thursday in Maui, Hawaii.

Theegala shot a nine-under-par 64 to move in front of Collin Morikawa, Colombia’s Camilo Villegas, Australia’s Jason Day, South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Norway’s Viktor Hovland at the PGA Tour’s 2024 season opener at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

Theegala, a 26-year-old who earned his first tour victory last September at the Fortinet Championship, rang up six straight birdies between the 10th and 15th holes on Thursday.

Theegala said the third birdie of that run was probably his favourite. “Just because I hit a great drive, almost got – just hit it in the greenside bunker there.

“Didn’t hit a great bunker shot and I had a really gnarly eight-or-nine-footer that I didn’t know which way it was going to break, grain was going all over the place.

“I just aimed it dead center and tried to hit it hard and hearted that putt, and that settled me down a little bit more, because I knew 13, 14, 15 were very gettable too, so to make that putt was nice.”

After that run came his only bogey of the round after he found sand off the tee at No 16. But he smashed two long shots at the 684-yard final hole to set him up for a short pitch shot, which he nestled inside six feet for the go-ahead birdie putt.

Morikawa and Villegas were the early-afternoon leaders in the clubhouse. Morikawa eagled the par-five ninth amid a bogey-free performance, and the 41-year-old Villegas had seven birdies and a bogey on his back nine.

Hovland, the defending FedEx Cup champion, heated up late by going five-under for his final seven holes.

Hovland called his round “pretty scrappy from a swing standpoint, but I’m very happy with the score. Managed to make some putts and kept it really relatively stress-free.”

Even more stars are lurking two shots back at seven-under 66: world No 1 Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.

The PGA Tour has moved back to a season contained within the same calendar year, leaving its former “wraparound” schedule that started its season in the fall and proceeded through the next summer.

The event was previously known as the Sentry Tournament of Champions and was only available to players who had won on tour the previous season.

Going forward, it’s open to the top 50 finishers in the previous year’s FedEx Cup standings, along with anyone who won a tournament that year. The field features a record 59 participants, with no cut.

One notable absentee is 2023 Sentry champion Jon Rahm. The Spanish two-time major winner sent shock waves through the sport when he changed allegiances from the PGA Tour to LIV Golf last month.

Rahm won this event last year with Morikawa as the runner-up. Canadian Mackenzie Hughes only made the Sentry field because his FedEx Cup finish was bumped up from No 51 to No 50 after the PGA Tour suspended Rahm. Hughes opened with a five-under 68.

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Source : Sky Sports