ATLANTA — Sahith Theegala knows the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year award competition is all but over.
Cameron Young, the only other rookie to have made the Tour Championship at East Lake, has one hand firmly on the PGA Tour’s Arnold Palmer Award. Posting five runner-up finishes in your debut season, including at the Open Championship at St. Andrews, will do that. Theegala knows it would take a miracle to bring himself back into the discussion.
“Maybe if I shoot three consecutive 63s and won the Tour Championship,” Theegala said after a 71 that left him at one over par, seven back of Young (67). “But if not, he’s absolutely deserving of the rookie of the year.”
Theegala’s season has been impressive; his five top-10s include a share of second at the Travelers and a tie for third at the WM Phoenix Open, where he led on Sunday through 17 holes. But he knows it doesn’t come close to matching Young’s five runners-up and two third-place results. The New York native eagled the 72nd hole at St Andrews to finish one shot behind Open champion Cameron Smith, while he was one back of a playoff at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, where Justin Thomas defeated Will Zalatoris.
“I don’t think people understand how incredible his season has been. He has seven top-3s as a rookie, and four or five of them were at massive tournaments,” Theegala said.
Young’s favorite runner-up may surprise you, though. Most would assume driving the 18th at St. Andrews and draining the eagle putt for a second would take the cake. But it was the T-2 at Sanderson Farms during the Fall Series that stands out. It catapulted the Korn Ferry Tour graduate up the re-rankings.
“Honestly, I go back to Sanderson Farms, the first time I finished second,” Young said. “At that point, that finish I think was way bigger than it’s given credit for because it reshuffled me a lot higher and I got into a lot of events I might not have otherwise. Like Riviera, where I had another good finish (another T-2).”
There were 28 rookies on the PGA Tour this season and the Palmer Award for the best performer will be determined in voting that ends next week by members who made at least 15 starts.
Young said it would be particularly special given he went to Wake Forest—the same college of the award’s namesake, Palmer.
“Yeah, that would be obviously a really nice honor,” he said. “I think we had a great rookie class this year. To come out on top of that would be great, especially given my ties to Wake Forest with Arnold Palmer also being a big part of that program. I mean, it’s something that we didn’t really think about much early, but as the season has gone on, it’s something that I’ve known in the back of my head would be nice to accomplish.”