WILMINGTON, Del. – When Sahith Theegala finished his final round at the BMW Championship, he was projected to qualify as one of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup points standings. But there were too many players still on the course for him to celebrate.
“It would mean the world to make the Tour Championship and stand along 29 of the other best golfers in the world,” he said.
“A dream season,” is how Theegala, who a year ago was sweating out getting into the Korn Ferry Tour Finals when he boarded a plane for Boise not knowing whether he was in the field.
He entered Sunday sitting on the bubble and knowing what he had to do. That sort 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 were near the lead,” he said. “I had a little bit of the shakes warming up. I couldn’t hold my hands still.”
Theegala made birdie at the first hole to settle the nerves temporarily, but as he put it, his round was “a wild ride.”
He was one over for the day through 11 holes when strung together three straight birdies and then drained a 37-foot birdie at 17. Still, he’d hit only 1 of 14 fairways all day, dead last in the field, and tried something different, anything to find a fairway.
“I don’t know why I tried to hit a draw. My natural shot is a cut. Tried to draw a 5-wood, and it started 20 yards right of my target and then cut, so I hit it 50 right,” Theegala said.
He caught a good lie in order to slice one up near the green, but left himself a 7-foot par putt that was worth at least $500,000 – last place money next week where the rich get richer.
“That was such a grind,” he said after drilling the putt to shoot 3-under 68 and finish T-15.
His “dream season” continues another week as he improved to No. 28 points in the FedEx Cup standings, one of two rookies along with Cameron Young to make it 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’ll be alongside 29 of the best in the world.
Here’s a look at others who are in the field at the Tour Championship and those who aren’t:
KH Lee entered the final round of the BMW Championship projected to finish 35th in the FedEx Cup point standings. He knew he needed to go low on Sunday. He didn’t want to finish No. 31 as he did a year before.
All Lee did was go out and make birdies on the first four holes to tour the front nine in 30 and move inside the top 30. He added birdies on 16 and 17 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 third round, maybe 34, 35 spot, that is less pressure than inside the top 30. But just I’m trying today to never think about my position, just I try my best.”
Adam Scott chips out of the rough on the seventh hole during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament. (Photo: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
Adam Scott is returning 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 when the postseason began and booked his ticket to the BMW with a tie for fifth last week, which lifted him to No. 45
Scott entered the day projected at 27th in the standings. He was 2-over through 11 holes and on the outside looking in when he made a 16-foot eagle at 12. A bogey at 13 and a birdie at 14 left him sweating out the final holes. It took an all-world par at 18 to preserve his spot in the top 30. Scott finished at 10-under 274, tied for fifth, but it propelled him to No. 29 in the standings.
Aaron Wise plays a second shot on the fifth hole during the final round of the BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Wise entered the week at No. 31 and was looking to be safe until he made a double bogey at the par-3 15th hole. Then he made bogey at 16 and his cushion disappeared. He had to well out a par at 18th after driving into a fairway bunker, but he got the job done. He tapped in for 2-over 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 about the last three holes,” he said. “I kind of assumed honestly that I had fallen out and that I needed to birdie 17 or 18 to get back in.”
Wise did just enough to secure his second trip to the Tour Championship.
“The first time I made it I had a win, which I feel like really helps you,” he said. “This time I did it without a win. So it’s kind of even more sweet to be in that elite field without having a win this year.”
Shane Lowry hits from the third tee during the final round of the 2022 BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Del. (Photo: Nick Wass/Associated Press)
Lowry, who started the day projected at No. 34 in the point standings, shot a final-round 68, but a bogey at 17 proved costly. When he finished his round, he was projected to be on the right side of the top 30 but Adam Scott bumped 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 tougher because he splits time on the DP World Tour and only made 18 Tour starts this season.
“It’s just so hard to do,” Lowry said. “Look, obviously Rory does every year and these guys, but Rory is Rory. I think throw five or six more events in my schedule and I’m guaranteed to be there next week. That’s the disappointing part of it. I feel like there’s a lot of things that didn’t go my way this season. I had a few chance to win tournaments that I didn’t get over the line, but all in all, it’s been a pretty good year without a win.”
Mullinax gave it his best effort. He ranked 140th in the FedEx Cup after the John Deere Classic and has been 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 make it to Atlanta. He finished 32nd in the final standings.
“Stings, but I left it all out there. I did everything I could do today,” he said. “You want to go. But if I’m one short, I’m one short. I left it all out there, and I’m proud of myself.”
Four in means four out
With Theegala, Lee, Scott and Wise moving inside the top 30, four players had to drop out.
The unfortunate four are: JJ Spaun, who held the 54-hole lead last week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship before cratering on Sunday, Joohyung (Tom) Kim, Davis Riley and Kevin Kisner, who is mired in a slump.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek