Daniel Berger claimed his maiden PGA Tour title with a three-shot victory over Brooks Koepka, Steve Stricker, and Phil Mickelson at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. His final round of three-under-par 67 contributed to a winning total of 13-under-par.
The 23-year-old started his Sunday round with a dropped shot, but rolled in some clutch-putts to reel off four straight pars. He started to go in the right direction and rolled in two birdies (at the sixth and ninth) to go out in 34 strokes.
‘[My aim was to] try to make as many birdies as I could and try to minimize the mistakes and got off to a poor start but I hung in there and made some clutch par putts on the first three, four holes and that kind of got me going.’ Berger said.
His back nine started badly however, after missing a par-putt from inside six feet, he had to settle for bogey. The Florida-born golfer would only get better from here though, as he lit up TPC Southwind by holing some monster putts. His first birdie on the home stretch came virtue a fairly easy eight foot putt on the 12th before sinking a 32 foot putt for birdie on the 14th. He backed this up by by sinking another birdie at the 15th, this time rolling it in from 21 feet as he marched onto victory.
‘On the back-nine I just kind of putted the lights out which you have to do sometimes to win and I feel like, you know, now that I’ve won once I can win ten more times’ Berger said of his back nine.
The 2015 PGA Tour rookie of the year, who had runner-up finishes last year at the Honda Classic and BMW Championship, and had accumulated six top-20 finishes on tour this season was unsurprised somewhat that he had broken into the winner’s circle after near misses, after being asked about it.
‘I would like to think so, I mean when I had that close call at the Honda 14 events into my PGA Tour career you start to think about that a lot. You’re wondering if you let that one go by, will you ever be in this position again? I played so well the last six, seven weeks, it was just a matter of time before I had a real, real shot at winning and I feel like those experiences last year really helped me to get to where I am right now. I just hung in there. It was a grind but to get it done here in Memphis is like a dream come true’ he said.
Looking ahead towards the US Open this coming week, Berger was in confident mood, especially after finishing in a tie for 10th at the Masters.
‘When I played in the Masters for the first time I finished 10th, five shots behind and didn’t really play that great. So, you know if I can go in there next week and play good, then obviously I have what it takes to get the win.’
From a South African perspective, the best placed finisher was Retief Goosen who ended up in a tie for 12th at five-under-par while Tyrone van Aswegen finished in a tie for 18th place at three-under-par.