Sahith Theegala Is Hoping Second Time’s the Charm at the Masters

Theegala made seven final-round birdies to finish ninth in his Masters debut in 2023

Sahith Theegala tees off in Houston. We spoke to the pro golfer ahead of the 2024 Masters.
Sahith Theegala is ready to run it back at Augusta.
Raj Mehta/Getty

Listed well below tournament favorites Scottie Scheffler (+450), Rory McIlroy (+1100), Jon Rahm (+1100) and Xander Schauffele (+1400) by Vegas oddsmakers, Sahith Theegala (+5000) is ranked as having the same shot to win the Masters as former world No. 2 golfer Cameron Smith and current No. 14 Cameron Young.

For Theegala, who made seven final-round birdies to finish ninth in his Masters debut in 2023 and hit a shot during his final round that drew comparisons to a similar stroke struck by Tiger Woods on his way to winning a green jacket in 2005, that may not be such a bad thing as it’s been almost 20 years since a pre-tournament favorite has left Augusta as a champion. Unsurprisingly, it was Woods in 2005 when he was the favorite at +350, according to SportsHandle.

A 26-year-old out of Pepperdine University who joined the PGA Tour in 2022 and has made the cut 66 times in the 85 events he’s played, Theegala has been prepping for his second shot at a green jacket using shot-by-shot “Hole Insights” AI technology designed by IBM. Available on the Masters app, IBM’s next-gen tech offers detailed projections of how each hole is expected to play based on eight years of data from the tournament, including more than 170,000 shots taken from 20,000 different locations on the course. It also allows players to view and analyze their previous rounds at the course so they can make informed decisions about how to tackle it in the future.

“From my perspective, it’s cool to see the new ‘Hole Insights’ stuff because it gives you perception on how you want to play Augusta and how others have played Augusta,” Theegala tells InsideHook. “It’s cool to compare the perception of what I think is a good spot or a bad spot and see what the objective analytics say for a certain spot. I was looking at every single shot I hit last year, and sometimes it was counterintuitive. I also used the app to see how Jon Rahm won. I think it is important to look at not only what I’ve done in the past, but what has worked for other players in the past.”

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Teeing off later today, Theegala thinks playing the Masters last year will give him a big advantage this time around.

“I think it’s a pretty big advantage for a couple reasons. One, just handling the nerves. Last year, Masters week was the fastest of my life. I got there on Sunday, snapped my fingers and it was the Sunday night after the tournament,” he says. “Now I know exactly how much energy the week takes out of you. From a golf perspective, it will be cool having certain shots that are similar to last year. There are a lot of very subtle putts even though the slopes are really big out there. I don’t think a lot of people have won at Augusta their first time around, but I’ll have that monkey off my back.” (Augusta has had just three first-time winners: Horton Smith, who may or may not count because it was the inaugural tournament; Gene Sarazen, who won the second year, in 1935; and Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.)

Theegala, who recently threw out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game and says he “blacked out” during the experience due to anxiety, says that nerves do help in some small way with his golf game, but he’ll be glad to be rid of them. “I’ve never been more nervous than in the first tee box in the first round of the Masters. I’ve realized I hit it quite a bit further when I’m very nervous because I just swing harder. It was just my second major as a pro too. Since then, I’ve become more accustomed to playing with a lot of these guys that I watched on TV growing up. I want to ask some of then for autographs and pictures and stuff, but I’m also trying to beat them.”

If Theegala is able to shoot the way he did in his final 5-under round last year throughout this year’s tournament, he just might have a shot at winning. At the very least, another top-10 finish is certainly in play. (He’s already had four this year.)

“That 5-under round was my lowest round at Augusta, period. Knowing I can go low out there is a big confidence boost,” he says. “You can’t be too hung up on what you did the past year, but I’m always going to have that as a confidence boost. Golf is hard and I’m sure I’m going to need a little boost here or there.”

He’s also going to need to find one of Augusta’s famous concession stands once, twice or 11 times over the weekend.

“I think it’s incredible they keep the prices the same every year. It’s $1.50 for the pimento cheese sandwich,” Theegala says. “Last year, the over/under on how many sandwiches my buddies and I were going to eat was 7.5. I think I ate 11 for the week. We took a bunch home and had them as snacks at the house we stayed at for the week. I’m going to try and keep it under 10 this year. It got a little heavy, but that pimento cheese is my favorite thing. If I happen to catch lightning in a bottle and am still in contention come Sunday, I will not complain about that. No matter what happens, I’m going to eat three pimento cheeses after the round, so it’s a win-win.”

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