Berger wins back-to-back FedEx St. Jude titles
June 11, 2017
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Daniel Berger goes back-to-back at FedEx St. JudeIn the final round of the 2017 FedEx St. Jude Classic, Daniel Berger made his way through the bunched leaderboard posting second-straight 66 in route to his second PGA TOUR title.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Notes and observations from the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, where Daniel Berger shot a second straight 66 to win the tournament for the second straight year. Charl Schwartzel (66) and Whee Kim (67) tied for second at 9 under par, while local amateur Braden Thornberry (65) headed up a group of five in a tie for fourth, two back.
For more coverage from TPC Southwind, click here for the Daily Wrap-up.
BERGER DOUBLES UP
Daniel Berger was making a mess of things on the first hole. He pulled his drive way left, hit his second shot into the native area left of the green, and hacked out his third only to watch the ball die in mid-air and settle into the rough.
Then, from 25 feet, 10 inches, he chipped in for par.
“Yeah, that could have been a double or triple-bogey with the blink of an eye,” said Berger, whose second PGA TOUR victory moved him to 10th in the FedExCup standings. “I was lucky to save par there, and that kind of got my round going and I hung on there at the end.”
Instead of a double-bogey, he had doubled up, becoming just the fourth player to go back-to-back at this tournament after David Toms (2003-’04), Lee Trevino (1971-’72) and Dave Hill (1969-’70). He also moved from 11th to fifth in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings.
Berger called his chip-in a one-in-a-hundred result, and he took full advantage of the pardon, making four birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way. This, on a watery TPC Southwind course that routinely claims more victims than even watery TPC Sawgrass.
“I put so much work in over the last six, eight months to try to be in the same position again,” said Berger, who stayed in the same hotel and even the same room—a coincidence, he said—as the one he stayed in last year here. “I’m so excited to finally get there.”
‘TEDDY’ TAMES TPC SOUTHWIND
Braden Thornberry was at a team dinner last year when a teammate gave him a hug.
“His teammate said, ‘Aw, he’s cuddly like a teddy bear,’” Ole Miss coach Chris Malloy recalled Sunday, when Thornberry shot an electric 65 to briefly tie for the lead at 8 under par before ultimately finishing T4. “So he became Teddy.”
The nickname is even stitched on his golf bag, but Thornberry, who is from nearby Olive Branch, Miss., and commuted from home this week, is more than just cuddly. He’s the new NCAA champion, and at the FedEx St. Jude, where he was playing as a sponsor’s exemption (his mom works for FedEx), he announced himself as a sharp operator under pressure.
“The bigger the stage,” Malloy said, “the better he’s been.”
Playing on a course he knew well, and in front of the hometown fans—Olive Branch is just 20 minutes away—Thornberry had every reason to play tight. He didn’t.
“I never really got nervous today,” he said after going bogey-free Sunday. “I was kind of surprised actually. But I think when your putter feels as good as it did today, you're a little more freed up tee to green.” (Thornberry made 117 feet, 5 inches worth of putts Sunday as he led the field in strokes gained: putting at +3.147. He was second in that stat for the week.)
Vying to become the first amateur TOUR winner since Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open, Thornberry finished T4 at Southwind, the best result by an amateur on TOUR since Lee McCoy took fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship. It was also the best performance by an amateur at the FedEx St. Jude since Deane Beman finished 10th in 1965.
Thornberry beat the pros just as he has the amateurs. (His sophomore year saw him win five tournaments, including the national title, and lead the nation with a 69.57 stroke average.) He kick-started his round at the par-5 third hole, where his 213-yard second shot (6 iron) wound up 45 feet from the hole. He buried the putt for an eagle, and with two more birdies and no bogeys coming in, “Teddy” worked his sizeable gallery into a frenzy.
“Having the support from the Rebel Nation … and friends and family, and Mom's co-workers, stuff like that, it's been really cool,” he said. “They never let me getdown. Like whether I was playing good or bad in a stretch, they stayed with me, so that helped me a lot.”
All in all, it was quite a week for a guy who was 3 over par for the tournament and in danger of missing the cut as he stepped off the ninth green Friday. (He rallied to make it by a shot.) Where does he go from here? He was planning to wake up at 5 a.m. Monday to depart for the Sunnehanna Amateur. And after that? Will he return to Ole Miss for his junior year?
“Let’s hope,” coach Malloy said. “He’s got another TOUR start at the Greenbrier Classic coming up. Crazy things can happen. I know he wants to play in the Walker Cup. That’s a big goal of his. He’s such a good kid. He’s going to make a lot of money out here.”
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Daniel Berger's clutch par save is the Shot of the Day
MICKELSON SUCCUMBS TO DISASTER
Phil Mickelson is the most under-par player at the FedEx St. Jude since 2013, at -41. Billy Horschel is the next best, at -26. That’s the good news.
The bad news is Mickelson still hasn’t won, and his latest run at the title was particularly gruesome. When he rolled in a 14-foot birdie putt on 10, he was tied for the lead at 9 under par. Was this the week Phil was finally going to break through at TPC Southwind?
A wayward-left drive, a penalty shot, another drive, an approach that found the water behind the green, another penalty, and a 19-foot putt added up to a triple-bogey 7 at the 12th. All the work he’d put in to get into the lead—four front-nine birdies for an outward 32—was gone.
“You can't make those big mistakes,” he said. “But what it tells me is I'm actually hitting more good shots. I'm driving the ball better than I have just about ever, I'm hitting more good shots than I ever have, and I feel like my game is starting to click.”
Indeed, he stabilized, going 1 under the rest of the way to finish solo ninth, three back.
For all of the head-scratchers in golf, Mickelson’s inability to win since the 2013 Open Championship is one of the leading conundrums. Some of it has been bad luck, such as his remarkable performance at the Open Championship at Troon last summer, when he shot a bogey-free 65 to finish an astounding 17 under par—and lost by three to Henrik Stenson.
Sometimes, though, Mickelson has struggled to finish off rounds. Finishing on the front nine Friday, he bogeyed the fifth and sixth holes and made a wet double at nine. Finishing on the back nine Saturday, he bogeyed 17 and was perhaps fortunate to double-bogey 18 after a wild misadventure that saw him lose his tee shot into the center of the pond and, later, hit a tree.
His triple-bogey Sunday, though, surprised him the most.
“Mentally I'm not as sharp or focused or mentally tough as I have been in the past that allowed me to win tournaments,” he said. “It was almost like I was a rookie today because I saw a peek behind 11 green where the leaderboard was right behind the hole when I was putting.”
Although he had expected to learn that he was still chasing, Mickelson found upon checking the scoreboard that he was actually tied for the lead. He did not react well.
“That's how non-mentally tough I am right now,” he said. “But the good news is that my physical game is there and I should be able to find the mental toughness here soon.”
CALL OF THE DAY
ODDS AND ENDS
Schwartzel, going for his first TOUR win since the 2016 Valspar Championship, notched his third top-10 finish of the season. He was third at the Masters and sixth in his title defense at the Valspar. With his T2 finish he moved from 74th to 39th in the FedExCup points race. …
Kim (69-66-69-67, T2) was one of three players in the top nine to shoot under par each day. The others were Kevin Chappel (68-67-68-69, T4) and Mickelson (69-67-69-68, ninth). Kim, who is first alternate from the Memphis sectional qualifier to get into this week’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills, went from 116th to 65th in the FedExCup. …
Billy Horschel birdied his final four holes to shoot 64, getting him to 8 under par for the tournament and briefly in a nine-way tie for the lead. (He tied for fourth.) Horschel’s 64 was tied for the low round of the week with Scott Brown, Stewart Cink, Matt Every and Sebastian Munoz (first round), and Adam Scott and J.B. Holmes (second round). …
Rafa Cabrera Bello, making his first start in the FedEx St. Jude, was trying to become the fourth first-time PGA TOUR winner here in the last six years. He also was vying to become the third Spaniard to win on TOUR this year, after Jon Rahm (Farmers Insurance Open) and Sergio Garcia (Masters). Alas, the 54-hole co-leader with Cink and Crane hit in the water to double-bogey the fourth hole and ultimately shot 71 to finish T4 at 8 under, two back. …
Sunday marked the most players tied for the 54-hole lead all season, and the first time that many players had been tied at the top since the 2015 Open Championship. At 2:13 p.m., shortly after Mickelson’s misadventure on 12, nine players were tied for the lead at 8 under. …
Rick Lamb, in last place among those who made the Saturday cut, went off by himself, without a playing marker, and shot his second straight 77 in two hours and 45 minutes. He finished an hour ahead of Russell Knox and Greg Owen in the group behind him.
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