Maybe it’s because he didn’t get invited to Spring Break. Maybe his friendship with Jordan Spieth has yet to be confirmed. Maybe he’s just less flashy, more stern than his contemporaries. Maybe there’s only room for so many phenoms in golf, and he, by process of elimination, gets left out of the conversation. Maybe he’s a bit more conventional than Bryson DeChambeau (ok, we all are).
Whatever the reason may be, Daniel Berger has flown under the radar over the last season and a half despite taking home of the PGA Tour’s main pieces of hardware in 2015. Berger was named Rookie of the Year after claiming six top-10’s, including two seconds.
But he was missing a victory, something so many of his young rivals had in their trophy cases. Berger, 23, finally added hardware this weekend. He won the FedEx St. Jude Classic following a three-under round of 67.
What an amazing week! Feels like a dream. Thanks to everyone for the kind messages. Toughest week of my life until… US Open week!
— Daniel Berger (@DanielBerger59) June 13, 2016
Berger, once again, has quietly gone about his business in 2016. Part of the reason for his lack of fanfare was a brutal mid-season stretch that threatened to derail his 2015 campaign. Berger missed seven consecutive cuts from the Memorial to the Barclays. Somehow, the Florida State grad rebounded when it counted it most (if we consider the young man’s pocketbooks). He rallied to finish 12th at the Tour Championship and set the tone for seasons to come.
So far, Berger has produced more consistent results in 2016: eight top-25’s in 17 events. He claimed T10 at Augusta in April, then followed with a T9 at the Players.
On Sunday, Berger matched his Memorial finish, 67, on the course. It was a challenging day as well. Not only did the weather throw a wrench into the schedule, forcing players to speed up play to beat the darkness, Berger faced stiff competition from more heralded names. There was US Open hopeful Dustin Johnson firing a 63 to add to the suspense. Then Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson, a pairing with a combined age of 94, turned back the clock with the season’s second major just ahead. They, too, matched Berger’s 67 to tie for second.
Phil hopes he betters that place by one next week.
Also in second was Berger’s one-time Seminoles’ teammate Brooks Koepka. Again, Koepka bludgeoned his way into a contention. Again, his pursuit came undone on the putting green like it did at the Byron Nelson. Koepka’s best chance came at the par-5, 16th. He reached the green in two and gave himself a makeable eagle putt. Down two strokes, Koepka hit an aggressive stroke. The ball teased the hole but didn’t fall and settled a precarious six-feet away. Koepka eventually accepted a par.
He stuffed his approach to an inch on the following hole, but at that point it was too late. Berger had already secured the win before the sun went down. He birdied 12. He birdied 14. He birdied 15. That stretch left him clear of the field.
While Brooke Henderson, 18, and Lydia Ko, 19, dueled on the LPGA Tour (Henderson outlasted the World No. 1 in a playoff to win the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship) youth was served once again on the men’s circuit. Maybe it’s time to start paying attention to Daniel Berger too.