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Theegala grabs early lead in rain-delayed Phoenix

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Sahith Theegala spent time with his parents in the players’ dining room and grabbed a bite to eat during what ended up being a long weather delay.

With no room to sit in the clubhouse at TPC Scottsdale, Theegala went out to his car to get warm, listen to music and play chess on his phone.

The break did nothing to slow him down.

Theegala returned to birdie his first hole following the delay, shooting a 6-under 65 to take the early lead in the unfinished first round of the Phoenix Open on Thursday.

“The weather was, it was not good, [but] those last four holes felt great, so I think there might be some good scores [Friday] with the wave that just teed off,” Theegala said. “It’s going to be cold, but hopefully no rain and wind. We’ll see. I played great and that’s all I can do, really.”

Five days after weather shortened the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to 54 holes, storms followed the PGA Tour to the desert.

A chilly morning gave way to wind and heavy rain that left pools of water on the greens at TPC Scottsdale. The Stadium Course was deemed unplayable around noon, leading to a delay of 3½ hours.

About half the field was able to finish following the delay, leaving the rest to return Friday morning to resume their first rounds.

Theegala returned to sink an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 sixth hole and closed with two pars. His closest pursuer was Andrew Novak, who was 5 under through nine holes.

S.H. Kim eagled the par-5 13th and got to 6 under with consecutive birdies starting on No. 5, but closed with two bogeys to shoot 67, matching Shane Lowry. Jordan Spieth shot 68.

Two-time defending champion Scottie Scheffler was 1 through six holes in his bid to become the first PGA Tour player to win the same tournament three straight times since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11.

“I was surprised at how many fans were out here when it was raining sideways and blowing 20, and freezing,” Theegala said.

Theegala broke through with his first PGA Tour win last fall at the Fortinet Championship, earning a spot in The Sentry to open the 2024 season. The former Pepperdine star finished second in Maui, a shot behind Chris Kirk, and tied for 20th at Pebble Beach last week.

Theegala, who tied for third at the 2022 Phoenix Open, kicked off this year’s tournament with three birdies in his opening nine after starting on No. 10. He chipped in on the par-4 second to start a run of three straight birdies before a bogey on No. 5 dropped him to 5 under.

Then the rain and wind hit.

Six groups managed to finish before the weather rolled in, leaving a majority of the field biding their time in the clubhouse — and their cars.

“It got really bad towards the end, it was quite tough,” said Lowry, who also spent time in his car with a couple of friends. “We came back out, the wind was not blowing as strong, but the ball was going nowhere, and it was cold and kind of tough.”

Thousands of fans remained at the stadium 16th hole — after continuing to imbibe, no doubt — and let out a roar when the horn sounded to resume play.

Theegala took advantage of a booming drive for his birdie on No. 6 and Kim bogeyed the par-4 eighth after pulling his second shot left of the green. Kim then three-putted from 31 feet for bogey on No. 9.

Novak sank a 28-foot eagle putt on No. 4 and had three straight birdies before the round was called because of darkness.

“I’m going to try and stay off my phone tomorrow,” Theegala said. “I know it’s going to be a while until I tee off, but hopefully I tee off tomorrow.”

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