Crowded Colonial: Berger emerges in 1st

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

By Drew Davison

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

FORT WORTH, Texas (TNS) — Daniel Berger stole the show on Sunday.

The Charles Schwab Challenge started its final round with 14 players within three shots of the lead, including seven ranked within the top 20 of the world.

But it was Berger, ranked 107th in the world, who emerged victorious in a playoff over Collin Morikawa. Berger was all smiles as he donned the signature plaid jacket as the winner of golf’s first event back after a three-month break amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was a hard-fought battle today,” said Berger, who won his third PGA Tour event. “I just kept telling myself, ‘Why not me today?’ From the beginning tee shot to the end, and some things went my way, obviously. A couple missed putts here and there for Collin. But in the end, it was a great week.”

A great week that had somewhat of a deflating finish. Berger even acknowledged that he didn’t want to win in the fashion he did with Morikawa missing a three-foot par putt on the first playoff hole.

Playing No. 17 to start the playoff (playoffs at Colonial traditional start on No. 18, but this year was altered due to coronavirus protocols), both Berger and Morikawa missed the green with their approach shots.

Morikawa chipped to just within three-feet from off the front left of the green, a borderline gimme for PGA Tour pros, and Berger did the same with his chip off the back of the green.

Berger knocked in his par, while Morikawa missed.

“What happened on the playoff hole was just not a good putt,” said Morikawa, who also missed a 7-footer for birdie on No. 18 that would have won it in regulation.

In fairness, Morikawa drained a 49-footer to get to 15-under on No. 14. That was just part of the drama on the final day.

Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Kokrak and Xander Schauffele all finished one shot back at 14-under in a tie for third. Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed tied for seventh at 13-under.

Rose had a chance to get to 15-under, but missed an 18-footer for birdie on No. 18. Schauffele, the leader going into Sunday, moved to 15-under by rolling in a 26-footer for birdie on No. 16. But he lipped out a three-foot par putt on No. 17 and couldn’t make a 24-footer for birdie on No. 18.

“I’m playing really good golf, which is really exciting,” Schauffele said. “It does suck that I’m not in the playoff or contending to win after it’s all said and done, but I’m in a good spot moving forward.”

A few big names were in good spots Sunday to make a charge but didn’t.

Top-ranked Rory McIlroy shot a 41 on the front nine to play himself out of contention. Reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland also didn’t make a push with a round of even-par 70.

Jordan Spieth stumbled as well. He briefly joined the leaders at 13-under after rolling in a 26-footer for birdie on No. 4 but then bogeyed three of his next four holes.

Spieth tried to get back in it, making birdies on three of the first four holes on the back nine, but faded with no more birdies — and two bogeys — on the final five holes. Spieth finished in a three-way tie for 10th.

“To have a chance on Sunday for the first time in almost two years, to be within one or two strokes of the lead on a Sunday, I really like the way that I battled today,” said Spieth, who last won at the 2017 British Open.

“I feel very good going forward.”

In the end, the tournament belonged to Berger who was one of the hottest players before play was suspended amid the pandemic. He had three top 10 finishes his previous three tournaments.

“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, but it’s tough out here,” Berger said. “It’s cutthroat. 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.”