Theegala breaks from pack to lead Sahalee Players Championship

Sahith Theegala
Sahith Theegala hits on the 10th hole during the third round

After playing 36 holes today in temperatures that reached the mid-80s, Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills, Calif. was the lone player to break the logjam and claim the top spot on the leaderboard after three rounds at the 23rd Sahalee Players Championship (SPC), being held at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.

Theegala began the day three shots behind the leaders, but a morning round of 5-under 67 vaulted him into contention with playing partners John Oda of Honolulu and Sulman Raza of Eugene, Ore.

"Yesterday really saved the tournament for me," Theegala said. "I was hitting it all over the place and was able to make some putts to keep me in it, and knowing I was putting well gave me the confidence to just keep going for it and something good was going to happen."

There were several low rounds posted in this morning's second round, but in the afternoon heat, with the course drying out, the scores were not as good in the third round.

After the first nine of the afternoon round, Theegala and Oda were tied for the lead at 5-under total. Then, while others were struggling with the toughened and dried-out course, Theegala caught fire, torching the back nine with four birdies to come home in 32, finishing with a third-round 69.

"The greens got twice as firm this afternoon," he said. "I've not seen greens this firm. They were absolutely perfect, and you had to put yourself in the right spot on the green or you were in trouble."

Theegala is a rising junior at Pepperdine, finishing his sophomore year as WCC Co-Player of the Year and selected as semifinalist for the Jack Nicklaus Award. He qualified for this year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

"Yeah it's been a really good summer so far. I'm just enjoying it right now, trying not to think too far ahead. But looking forward to tomorrow."

His 9-under total gives him a 4-shot lead over Oda, and five shots clear of Raza.

Oda had the early lead today, but couldn't hold it in the afternoon round. "I hit the ball well, but couldn't get anything going," he said. "On nine (the par-3), I hit a perfect shot but it bounced over the green. Everything got so firm. That's golf. I'm playing well, hitting it well, so we'll see what tomorrow brings."

John Oda
John Oda during the second round

Oda, a stalwart on the UNLV men's golf team, had also played in the U.S. Open last month.

Raza just finished his collegiate career at the University of Oregon. He sank the winning putt to win the 2016 NCAA team title for UO, and won the individual title at the 2017 Oregon Duck Invitational.

Theegala, Oda and Raza were paired for both rounds today, and became the marquee group, finishing one, two and three. They will be paired again in the last group for tomorrow's final round.

The SPC is being contested over 72 holes of stroke play. The final round will be held Friday, July 7. The first tee time is 8:00 a.m., with the leaders teeing off at 11:30 a.m.

Click here for complete hole-by-hole coverage, and to follow along with live scoring during each of the rounds.

Admission is free to watch the championship.

Click here for a complete list of competitive bios of the players competing in this year's Sahalee Players Championship.

Sulman Raza
Sulman Raza during the third round

The SPC was rated an "A" event in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR) before taking a hiatus last year while the club hosted the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, and each year the event draws an international field of the finest amateur players.

Five of the previous 13 SPC champions have gone on to win the Ben Hogan Award, given to the nation's top collegiate golfer and the list of previous SPC participants now playing on the PGA Tour continues to grow each year.

Past champions of this prestigious amateur championship include Kyle Stanley, Casey Martin, Peter Uihlein, Nick Taylor, Daniel Summerhays, Ryan Moore, Chris Williams, Arron Oberholser and Jason Gore, among others, all of whom would go on to win on the PGA or European tours. The SPC scoring record at Sahalee is the 16-under 272 (68-69-68-67) shot in 2004 by Moore, a native of Puyallup, Wash.

Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash. has been the site of the SPC since 1992, and has hosted numerous top-level events in golf, including the 1974 PNGA Men's Amateur, 1978 Pacific Coast Amateur, 1998 PGA Championship, 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational, 2010 U.S. Senior Open, and 2016 KPMG Women's PGA Championship.