WILMINGTON, Delaware — When Sahith Theegala completed his final run in the BMW Championship, he was expected to qualify in the top 30 in the FedEx Cup points standings. But there were still too many players on the course for him to rejoice.
“It would mean the world doing the Tour Championship and standing alongside 29 of the other best golfers in the world,” he said.
“A dream season” is how Theegala, who was sweating a year ago to compete in the Korn Ferry Tour finale when he boarded a plane for Boise unsure if he was on field.
He entered Sunday sitting on the bubble and knowing what he had to do. This kind of pressure can do funny things to some golfers.
“I was like, I’m in 30th place out of 70 people, and I’m as nervous as if I was near the lead,” he said. “I had a bit of a tremor that warmed up. I couldn’t hold my hands still.
Theegala birdied the first hole to temporarily calm the nerves, but as he said his game was “a wild ride”.
He was an over for the day through 11 holes when he chained three straight birdies and then drained a 37-foot birdie at 17. Yet he had only hit one of 14 fairways all day , good last in the field, and tried something different, all to find a fairway.
“I don’t know why I tried to draw. My natural shot is a cut. I tried to draw a 5 wood, and it started 20 yards right of my target, then cut, so I hit it 50 right,” Theegala said.
He caught a good lie in order to carve one near the green, but left himself with a par 7-foot putt that was worth at least $500,000 – last-place money next week where the rich get enrich.
“It was so tough,” he said after punching the putt to shoot 3-under 68 and finish T-15.
His ‘dream season’ continues another week as he improved to 28th in the FedEx Cup points standings, one of two rookies along with Cameron Young to travel to Atlanta and East Lake Golf Club for the Tour Championship.
“It’s another step for me to feel like I really belong because I still don’t feel like I’m really there at the top of the game,” he said.
Next week he will be alongside 29 of the best in the world.
Here’s a look at who else is on the field at the Tour Championship and who isn’t:
Stallings had a 9-foot putt tied for the lead at 18, but despite finishing second, he was handed a nice consolation prize. In his 12e year on the Tour, the 37-year-old three-time winner has booked his first trip to the Tour Championship.
“That was my No. 1 goal to start the year,” said Stallings, who entered the week at No. 47 and jumped to No. 12. “To compete against the best players in the world and get to East Lake was better late than never, I guess.
KH Lee entered the final round of the BMW Championship which is expected to finish 35e in the FedEx Cup points standings. He knew he had to come down on Sunday. He didn’t want to finish No. 31 like he had a year before.
All Lee did was go out and birdie the first four holes to round the front nine in 30 and move into the top 30. He added birdies on the 16th and 17th to cement his position at No. 26 in the standings and finished T-5 in the tournament.
“Honestly, a lot of pressure this week,” he said. “But I think after the third round, maybe 34, 35 place, it’s less pressure than in the top 30. But I just try today never to think about my position, just I do my best.”
Adam Scott returns to East Lake for the first time since 2019, and he did it the hard way. He was ranked No. 77 in the FedEx Cup at the start of the playoffs and booked his ticket to the BMW with a tie for fifth place last week, which propelled him to No. 45.
Scott entered the day projected 27th in the standings. He was 2 on 11 holes and out when he made a 16-foot eagle at 12. A bogey at 13 and a birdie at 14 left him sweating the final holes. It took a world par at 18 to keep his spot in the top 30. Scott finished at 10-under 274, tied for fifth, but that bumped him up to 29th in the standings.
Wise entered the week at No. 31 and was looking to be safe until he double-bogeyed on the par-3 15th hole. Then he bogeyed at 16 and his pillow disappeared. He had to empty a par on the 18th after entering a fairway bunker, but he got the job done. He tapped for 2 of 73 and a T-15 finish, but it was good enough to be the last man in the Tour championship at No. 30.
“It wasn’t stressful until the last three holes,” he said. “I kind of honestly assumed I was down and had to birdie 17 or 18 to get back.”
Wise did just enough to secure his second trip to the Tour Championship.
“The first time I did it I had a win, which I think really helps you,” he said. “This time I did it without a win. So it’s even nicer to be in this elite peloton without having won this year.
Lowry, who started the day projected 34th in the points standings, shot a final-round 68th, but a bogey at 17 proved costly. When he finished his run, he was supposed to be on the right side of the top 30, but Adam Scott knocked him out. Lowry has never qualified for the Tour Championship in his nine seasons as a member of the PGA Tour, even in 2019 when he won the British Open. Lowry’s task is more difficult as he splits time on the DP World Tour and has only made 18 Tour starts this season.
“It’s so hard to do,” Lowry said. “Look, obviously Rory does it every year and these guys, but Rory is Rory. I’m thinking of adding five or six more events to my schedule and I’m sure to be there next week. That’s the disappointing part of it. I feel like there are a lot of things wrong with me this season. I had a few chances to win tournaments that I didn’t top, but overall it was a pretty good year without a win.
Mullinax did his best. He placed 140th in the FedEx Cup after the John Deere Classic and was on a tear, winning the Barbasol Championship for his first Tour victory.
Mullinax shot 3-under 68 and finished T-12, but he needed at least one more birdie to get to Atlanta. He finished 32nd in the final standings.
“Bings, but I left everything there. I did everything I could do today,” he said. “You want to go. But if I miss one, I miss one. I left everything there and I’m proud of myself.
With Theegala, Lee, Scott and Wise moving into the top 30, four players had to drop out.
The unfortunate four are: JJ Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead last week at FedEx St. Jude Championship before cratering on Sunday, Joohyung (Tom) Kim, Davis Riley and Kevin Kisner, who is mired in a meltdown.