Sahith Theegala is the latest player to make a quick transition from the college game to the PGA TOUR.
He was college golf’s consensus player of the year in 2020, sweeping the Haskins, Hogan and Nicklaus awards. Now he is a PGA TOUR rookie and coming off a T8 finish in his second start of the new season, at last week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.
He held at least a share of the lead in each of the first three rounds before shooting 71 on Sunday. The top-10 finish – his third in his last four starts between the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR – also earned Theegala a start in this week’s Shriners Children’s Open.
A new driver has played a large role in his recent success. He made adjustments to that club after missing the cut in the first event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. They paid immediate dividends. Thanks to an extra 15-20 yards off the tee and a narrowed dispersion, he finished in the top-10 of the next two events to earn his TOUR card.
“It’s a longer driver. I’m like, if I’m going to hit it off line, I might as well hit it a little bit farther and funny enough I’m hitting it way straighter,” he said after his first-round 64 at the Sanderson Farms Championship. “So that helped a little bit, seeing something new. Still getting comfortable with the driver, only had it a month now. But it’s been really nice to see some of the work paying off and being in more fairways.”
Theegala finished 10th in driving distance (317.1 yards) and 19th in fairways hit (60.7%) last week, a solid combination.
Several changes were made to Theegala’s Ping G425 LST driver to dial in the cut he likes to play off the tee and eliminate the dreaded double-cross.
Ping’s Korn Ferry Tour rep, David Bray, installed a new shaft in Theegala’s driver – True Temper’s Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black RDX 6.5 – and made it 45.25 inches long, 0.75 inches longer than Theegala’s previous shaft. The shaft was “tipped” 1.5 inches – Bray said he usually tips players’ drivers about an inch — to control the spin and dispersion of Theegala’s shots, as well. “Tipping” a shaft means removing length from the clubhead end instead of the grip end. This makes the shaft stiffer and also increases its resistance to twisting.
Braylso added hot melt to the toe of the club to promote a fade. Also known as “rat glue” by gearheads — owing to the similarity between the properties of the substance and the material found in glue traps — hot melt is injected into clubheads via a hot glue gun with a long nosel.
The changes dropped about 500 rpms off Theegala’s tee shots, to about 2,500, and an increase of 3-4 mph of ball speed.
“He hits a high ball to begin with. This just controlled the spin for him,” Bray said. “He likes to cut the ball, so he’s going to have more spin, but this is more penetrating. It’s not ballooning on him. I would say he probably picked up 3-4 more mph because he was hitting it more in the center of the clubface than the heel misses he had before.
“It just builds confidence. For these guys, everything starts with driving. When you’re struggling with driving, you press with every other part of your game.”
Theegala has found a club that fits him off the tee, and is exhibiting the potential he displayed during his promising college career.