Daniel Berger emerges as shocking Charles Schwab Challenge winner
FORT WORTH, Texas — Daniel Berger was emotional, and he had every reason to be moved.
Berger captured the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first PGA Tour event following a three-month pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a one-hole playoff over Collin Morikawa on Sunday at Colonial Country Club.
The Charles Schwab Challenge was the first of four PGA Tour events that are being played without spectators as a safety precaution as the nation attempts to recover from the coronavirus crisis.
For Berger, his third career PGA Tour victory did not come easy. When many expected one of the big names on the leaderboard to emerge as the victor Sunday — No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy was in the mix to start the day, as were Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland to name a few.
Berger, ranked 107th in the world and coming back from a hand and wrist injury, was not the name many expected to be the last man standing.
“There were so many times today where I could have given it up or let the pressure get to me, but I hung in there and I played practically some of the best golf I’ve played the last six years the last five holes,’’ Berger said of his final-round 66. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Why not me today?’ ”
Morikawa may spend some time after Sunday asking, “Why me?’’
He had a chance to seize the tournament when he had a seven-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to get to 16-under and take the lead into the clubhouse. It was a putt every player dreams about.
Morikawa, who a year ago was still in college at Cal, tugged the putt slightly and slid the ball past the cup on the left side.
After Xander Schauffele — victimized by a four-foot putt that did a 360 around the cup on 17 and stayed out for a bogey that doomed his chances — failed to get to 15-under with a birdie on 18, Berger and Morikawa went back to 17 for a playoff.
Berger got up and down for a nifty par save from the rough behind the green and Morikawa had a three-footer for par to extend the playoff to the 18th, but his putt cruelly rimmed out of that same evil cup that refused to allow Schauffele’s putt in about 30 minutes earlier.
“On 18 I actually hit a really good putt, [but] it was a really bad misread,’’ Morikawa said. “Yeah, I’m going to have my head down after that because it was a putt pretty much to win it. What happened on the playoff hole was just not a good putt.
“This one I had full control [of]. This one bites a little harder.’’
Berger knows the feeling, having gone 0-for-2 in previous playoffs, lowlighted by losing to that famous Jordan Spieth hole-out from the sand to win the 2017 Travelers Championship.
“Yeah, I’ve been on the other end of that,’’ Berger said. “It’s going to hurt for a little while, but he’ll get over it and he’ll be winning again. It was tough. Obviously, it was a three-footer, but it was a sliding left-to-righter and by no means was it a gimme.
“If I was at home playing with my buddies for 20 bucks I’d be making them putt it. You’ve got to get the ball in the hole, and it’s unfortunate that it ended that way, but it’s just the way golf goes.’’
Quietly, Berger has been one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour of late. Sunday marked his 28th consecutive round at par or better dating to Oct. 11 at the Houston Open. The PGA Tour record is 52.
This round, though, paid huge dividends. Given the major championship caliber field the historic relevance of this event, it’s the biggest win of his career. Interestingly, Berger’s only other two wins came at the 2016 and 2017 St. Jude Classic, an event that usually takes place the second week of June — same as this past week.
“I think when I won my first couple times, I took it a little bit for granted thinking that every year it was just going to be easy and you’d have that chance to win,’’ Berger said. “But it’s tough out here. It’s cutthroat, and the best players in the world every week are showing up. I worked my butt off the last year to be in this position, and I’m just glad it all paid off.’’
Source: Read Full Article