Xander Schauffele defeated rookie Sahith Theegala and J. T. Poston by two strokes to win the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, today. It was Schauffele’s sixth win in his career on the PGA Tour.
Poston shot 64 to be in the clubhouse with the early lead due to a 72-hole total of 263 on the par 70 course, thus 17-under par. Schauffele was paired in the last threesome, with Theegala playing in the second-to-last group, thus right in front of him. Schauffele and Theegala were tied at 18-under par total with two holes to play. Theegala took the lead with birdies on the 15th and 17th holes to move to 19-under with one hole to play.
The winless Theegala is a bearded, tall, slender and dark Indian-American from Orange County, California, who I think is an interesting player with a crazy golf swing but an absolutely magical touch on the greens and chipping. He barely lost the WM Phoenix Open this year when his drive on the driveable par four 17th hole took a bad bounce and went in the water next to the edge of the green. So, one would think that the next time he had a chance to win at the end of the tournament, he might play a little more cautiously.
The 18th hole is a 444-yard par four with a narrow fairway and a sand bunker off the left edge of the fairway. Theegala, with a one shot lead, could have played safe with a three metalwood off the 18th tee, which likely would have stayed short of the bunker. But instead, he used his driver, aimed slightly left at the bunker, playing a cut, but the ball went straight into the bunker. Worse yet, the ball stopped close to the end of the bunker, which has about a three-foot elevated grassy lip.
Theegala and his caddy spent a lot of time discussing what to do with this second shot out of the sand bunker. He had only about 120 yards to the pin. It looked like the only logical play was a safe lay up shot, making sure he caught sand before the ball so that the ball would have enough elevation to clear the lip. But no, it appeared that he elected to try to hit the ball on the green, which looked to us TV viewers to be impossible. So, swung and hit ball first, the ball hit the embankment, and came backwards to settle almost in Theegala’s sand divot. It was a rather shocking play since he had a one stroke lead and seemed to go for broke.
Well, Theegala then played his third shot by striking the sand first and then the ball. That enabled the ball to clear the lip embankment and end in the fairway, with about an 80-yard shot to the pin. Theegala then wedged well to about ten feet from the hole. His putt looked like it was going in, but it rimmed half the hole and stayed out. That gave him a double bogey six to finish tied with Poston at 17-under par.
Schauffele had been waiting back on the 18th tee, watching to his surprise what was happening. He then hit a perfect drive, good wedge, and made a birdie three to shoot 68 and finish 19-under par total 261 for the win.
But it was a second tournament this year in which the rookie Theegala had a chance to win and sort of blew it. Yet the guy seems to have a terrific attitude as he bowed his head in seeming shame for the crowd as he walked off the 18th green.
It was another exciting finish on the PGA Tour, which seems to be happening every week. And for me, LIV Golf won’t be producing anything as exciting as the PGA Tour for a while, if ever. Plus, you can watch all of it in on a major television network in the comfort of your home, which LIV Golf doesn’t enjoy, if ever.