Berger outlasts strong field for first TOUR win
June 12, 2016
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Daniel Berger celebrates with the trophy after winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic during the final round at TPC Southwind. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Daniel Berger claimed his first PGA TOUR victory on Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. For more from the final round in Memphis, check out the Daily Wrap-up.
POISE UNDER PRESSURE
Daniel Berger was being pursued by a World Golf Hall of Famer when he stepped to the tee where he’d hit a shot in the water one day earlier.
He was hitting the same club, a 7-iron, at TPC Southwind’s par-3 14th. This shot safely landed 32 feet left of the hole. Berger holed the birdie putt for what he called his most important shot of the day.
“If that putt didn’t go, then maybe I wouldn’t have been so free on the next one and who knows what would have happened,” Berger said.
He holed a 21-foot birdie putt at the next hole and cruised to a three-shot victory at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. It was the first PGA TOUR victory for Berger, who was the TOUR’s Rookie of the Year last season on the strength of runner-up finishes at The Honda Classic and BMW Championship. He finished 11th in last season’s FedExCup.
He’s 14th in this year’s standings after finishing three shots ahead of Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Brooks Koepka at TPC Southwind.
Berger, 23, turned pro after two seasons at Florida State, where he was teammates with Koepka. Berger finished second at the 2013 NCAA Championship, then graduated from the Web.com Tour in his first season. He was the TOUR’s top rookie last season and now is a PGA TOUR winner. He finished 10th in his Masters debut in April.
“I think you’re either born to be a competitor or you’re not,” said Berger, whose father Jay was a professional tennis player. “I just want to win in whatever I do.”
And he did Sunday.
PHIL LOOKS FORWARD
Phil Mickelson found himself in contention again at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Now we’ll see if he can carry it over to the U.S. Open.
Mickelson shot 67 on Sunday at TPC Southwind to post 10-under 270, three shots behind Berger.
This was Koepka’s second consecutive runner-up after a playoff loss at the AT&T Byron Nelson; Koepka now ranks 17th in the FedExCup. Stricker, who leapt from 160th to 107th in the FedExCup, posted his best finish since 2013.
Mickelson was four strokes back when the final group made the turn, but he picked up three shots on Berger on the back nine’s first three holes. He pulled within one shot with birdies at Nos. 10 and 12. He made just one birdie the rest of the way, though.
“I had a couple opportunities on the back that I let slip, but for the most part I hit a lot of good shots,” Mickelson said. “It almost feels like the U.S. Open came a week early to finish … second place.”
Mickelson needs a U.S. Open victory to complete the career Grand Slam. He has finished runner-up in the event a record six times.
This was Mickelson’s fourth consecutive FedEx St. Jude appearance. He has finished no worse than 11th in those four starts, including three top-three finishes. He followed his runner-up finish here in 2013 with a second-place showing at Merion. He’s finished 28th and 64th in the past two U.S. Opens, though.
“Last week I struck the ball very well. This week I putted very well,” Mickelson said. “If I put them both together next week, it’s going to be a good week. … I just couldn’t catch (Berger), but I’m coming out of this week with a lot of positives and some good momentum.”
HEADING TO OAKMONT WITH MOMENTUM
Dustin Johnson will arrive at Oakmont Country Club with some good momentum after shooting a final-round 63 at TPC Southwind, including a 6-under 29 on his final nine holes.
His final nine holes included chip-ins on Nos. 16 and 18.
Johnson shot 66-69 in the tournament’s first two rounds, but fell to 18th place with a 73 on Saturday. He finished fifth at 9-under 273.
“The game is actually really good,” Johnson said. “The first couple of rounds, I don’t know whether it was the heat or what, but I just … wasn’t getting the scores out of my rounds that I thought I should.
“I just gave away so many shots the first three rounds.”
Johnson also said he was a bit “sloppy” with his set-up earlier in the week.
This is Johnson’s best finish at this event since winning in 2012. He has finished fourth and second at the past two U.S. Opens.
“I’m real comfortable, real confident going into next week,” he said.
Johnson, No. 7 in the FedExCup, is seeking his first major victory after several close calls. He has finished in the top seven in four of the past five majors.
SECOND TIME'S A CHARM
On Monday, Brian Gay lost a playoff for a spot in the U.S. Open. He left TPC Southwind on Sunday with a berth at The Open Championship secured.
Gay finished sixth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic to earn a spot in The Open Championship. This was Gay’s first top-10 since he finished fourth at The RSM Classic in November 2013. He’s had surgery on his neck and thumb since, which caused him to sit out all of 2015.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic was the first PGA TOUR event of the 2016 Open Qualifying Series. The top four finishers at the FedEx St. Jude (who were not already exempt for The Open) earned Open spots, provided they also finished in the top 12 this week. Open Championship spots will also be available at the Quicken Loans National and The Greenbrier Classic.
Steve Stricker, Russell Henley and Seung-Yul Noh also earned tee times at Royal Troon on July 14-17.
Stricker, 49, will be making his first Open Championship appearance since 2012.
QUOTE OF THE DAYIt's just a dream come true to finally be a champion.
SHOT OF THE DAY
SHOT OF THE DAY
Daniel Berger's amazing birdie bomb is the Shot of the Day
SOCIAL MEDIA OF THE DAY
@DanielBerger59 nice shootin Daniel 👌🏼🏆— Luke Donald (@LukeDonald) June 13, 2016
"It's just a dream come true to finally be a champion."— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 13, 2016
@DanielBerger59 congrats on the win pro! It was only a matter of time.— Smylie Kaufman (@SmylieKaufman10) June 13, 2016
Great playing this week @DanielBerger59! Congrats bud!— William McGirt (@WilliamMcGirt) June 13, 2016