US rookie Theegala shoots 67 to seize one-stroke PGA lead

Washington (AFP) –


Sahith Theegala, chasing his first US PGA title, fired a bogey-free five-under par 67 to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the Sanderson Farms Championship.

The 23-year-old American, a rookie making only his 15th US PGA start, stood on 18-under 198 after 54 holes at the Country Club of Jackson in Mississippi.

"It's pretty unreal," Theegala said. "Pretty cool."

Sharing second on 199 were compatriots Cameron Tringale, Sam Burns, Cameron Young and Denny McCarthy. Americans Trey Mullinax and Seth Reeves shared sixth on 200.

Theegala, who won three awards last year recognizing him as the top US college golfer, rolled in his only front-nine birdie from just inside 22 feet at the par-4 sixth.

He began the back nine, however, with three birdies, all from about six feet, and dropped his approach inches from the cup to set up a birdie at the par-4 15th to seize the lead alone.

Theegala, whose best PGA finish was a share of 14th last year at Napa, escaped bogey at 16 thanks to a pitch to three feet and at 17 by sinking a par putt from just inside seven feet.

"It has been awesome," he said. "Just staying in the process on each shot, regardless of how my game is. Whatever the outcome is, the outcome is. Making sure I stay focused on what's ahead."

Tringale, 34 and also chasing his first US PGA title, fired a bogey-free 62, the lowest round of his PGA career.

"It was a great day," Tringale said. "I was just in control of every part of my game. It was fun to play well on a course I love. I made a few putts and tried to stay out of the way and let it happen."

Tringale, ranked 73rd, won his only pro title alongside Australian Jason Day at the 2014 Franklin Templeton Shootout. He has three US PGA runner-up efforts, the most recent at Las Vegas in 2016.

- Embracing the fun -

He holed a 55-foot eagle putt at the par-5 fifth, made birdies from 12 and 14 feet at the eighth and ninth, sank 15-footers for birdie at 12 and 17 and blasted in for eagle from a greenside bunker from just inside 100 feet at the par-5 14th.

"My speed was dialed in. That was the key," Tringale said. "The greens are tough out here.

"I have fun. That's something I'm trying to embrace more. If I fail it's OK. If I succeed it's OK. I'm just trying to embrace enjoying what I'm doing out here."

McCarthy, also chasing his first PGA title, and Burns, who won his first PGA title in May at Valspar, each fired 65s to reach the second-place pack. Young shot 67.

Burns, who went bogey-free, birdied the first five holes on the back nine.

"Got off to a sluggish start," Burns said. "Was able to get on a run on the back nine and put myself in a good place for tomorrow."