Sahith Theegala has handled the weather better than most this week as he sits as the 36-hole leader at the WM Phoenix Open.
While he has plenty of lasting memories in Scottsdale, this year brought new adversity to the table — freezing sideways rain, puddles on the green and frigid air that made his hands numb.
Despite the various elements challenging him, Theegala felt he played some of the best golf he has ever played.
"The first day was just a straight endurance test, trying to not have an explosion hole with the conditions," Theegala said.
"One of the best rounds I've played on Tour,” he continued.
He shot a 65 in Round 1 and followed it up with a 64. Theegala sits at 13-under and holds a one-shot lead over Nick Taylor and Andrew Novak. It's his lowest 36-hole score since he joined the PGA Tour.
The former Pepperdine golfer finds himself in a familiar position at TPC Scottsdale. Theegala led after the second and third rounds of the 2022 WM Phoenix Open.
He played on a sponsor exemption that year and was in the final group with Scottie Scheffler on Sunday. The Scottsdale crowds and golf world started to pay attention to him because of that performance.
As they came down the stretch, he heard the crowds at the 16th hole Coliseum chant his name as it appeared he would win his first PGA Tour event. However, disaster struck on the drivable par-4 17th as Theegala hit it into the water and tore that win from his grasp.
Theegala shot a final round 70 to finish tied for third, leaving Scheffler to beat Patrick Cantlay in a playoff.
It seems now he is using that heartbreak as fuel for the fire to complete his unfinished business.
"Just kind of fired me up and gave me a little extra motivation...and the fans out here are obviously sick, and I felt the support all day on that back nine again,” he said.
Theegala squad doesn't mess around. pic.twitter.com/c09juBZtVY— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 10, 2024
Theegala has come a long way since that moment. He sits 22nd in the world and won his first PGA Tour event at the 2023 Fortinet Championship. The Texas resident also has three runner-up finishes, one third place, nine top 5s, and 14 top 10s.
Despite those accomplishments, fans still remember him sobbing in his mother's arms after he faltered in Phoenix two years ago.
"It was just like a culmination of everything, and then my first time really being in the heat of the moment and just feeling like I had kind of let everybody else down, including myself," he said. "I think that's why it was an emotional response. I couldn't even get words out. I'm an emotional guy, but usually not ugly crying like that."
Now, he has a chance at redemption in Scottsdale and a shot at creating a new moment that people will remember.
Thirty-six holes stand in the way of him finally becoming the People's Open champion. If the way he felt like he played the first two days is any indication, it could be a good weekend for him.
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.