Sahith Theegala beat the rain and the rest of the field in the first day of the 72nd WM Phoenix Open.
Theegala, from Chino Hills and Pepperdine, shot six-under-par 65 and held a one-stroke lead over Andrew Novak when play was halted by darkness on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Rain stopped the tournament for several hours in the middle of the day before the players returned to the course late in the afternoon. Much of the field will return Friday morning to complete the first round before the start of round two.
Theegala made three birdies on his first six holes and added four birdies coming home against a single bogey at No. 5 in his 65.
“I was surprised at how many fans were out here when it was raining sideways and blowing 20, and freezing,” said Theegala, who claimed his second PGA Tour victory in the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Country Club in Napa last September. “It was cool to see all the support and people chanting my name and all that, it’s the best. I got a good sense of that last year when I came back after the run I made the first year, so to be back is always great.
“The last name’s always pretty good. It kind of comes off the tongue how it is spelled, I guess, Theegala, so the last name chants are always great. It’s when they try and yell the first name when they’re a little drunk that some letters get added or omitted … I know they’re rooting for me, so it doesn’t bother me at all. I love it. I don’t mind any pronunciation if they’re yelling.”
Novak holed out from 28 feet for an eagle on his fourth hole and was five-under-par through nine holes, while Shane Lowry made six birdies on his front nine en route to a 67 and was two shots behind in a tie for third with S.H. Kim of South Korea, who made a nine-foot eagle putt on the 13th hole in his 67.
Jordan Spieth, who won the had four birdies on his front nine in a 68 and was three down in a tie for fifth with Nick Taylor, who had three straight birdies early and was three-under through sis holes, and Cameron Young, who was three-under-par after five.
Ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England made three birdies on his front nine in a 69 and was in a big tie for eighth with Martin Laird of Scotland, Alex Noren of Sweden, Joel Dahmen, Kevin Yu of Taiwan, Davis Thompson and Aaron Baddeley of Australia, who all finished at 69.
Also in the tie for eighth were Maverick McNealy of Portola Valley and Stanford, who was two-under-par after eight holes, Cameron Champ of Sacramento and Camilo Villegas of Colombia, who both were two-under-par after four holes.
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, the two-time defending champion in Phoenix, was one-under after six holes and in a tie for 18th that included Hideki Matsuyama, another two-time winner to this event, who was one-under through seven holes.
Sixth-ranked Wyndham Clark, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week, was even par though sis holes and in a tie for 48th that included 10th-ranked Brian Harman, who shot 71, and eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal was tied for 97th following a 73.
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