Make that two-for-two for Daniel Berger. One year after the then 23-year-old captured his maiden PGA Tour victory on his first attempt at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, Berger rode a bogey-free final round 66 to a second straight title at TPC Southwind.
Despite an extremely crowded Sunday leaderboard that, at one point, featured nine co-leaders, Berger’s nearly flawless play down the stretch made the finish surprisingly dull, as every other challenger in the late groups seemingly fell flat on their face.
At -10, Berger finished one stroke ahead Charl Schwartzel and Whee Kim, and two over a group of five players which included amateur Braden Thornberry, who was making his PGA debut. The 2015 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year now has two career wins, both coming at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
1 Daniel Berger -10
T2 Charl Schwartzel
T2 Whee Kim -9
T4 Billy Horschel -8
T4 Braden Thornberry (a) -8
T4 Chez Reavie -8
T4 Kevin Chappell -8
T4 Rafa Cabrera-Bello -8
9 Phil Mickelson -7
T10 Harris English -6
T10 Steve Wheatcroft -6
T10 Adam Scott -6
T10 Dominic Bozzelli -6
T10 David Hearn -6
T10 Chad Campbell -6
T10 Ben Crane -6
T10 Stewart Cink -6
T18 Fabian Gomez -5
T24 Francesco Molinari -4
T31 Ian Poulter -2
T37 Brooks Koepka -1
T47 Retief Goosen E
T60 Ernie Els +2
How Berger Did It
Daniel Berger started the day in a share of ninth place, although that was just three back of 54-hole co-leaders Stewart Cink, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and Ben Crane.
For the second straight day, Berger made his move on the front nine, carding birdies on 3 and 7 to be right in the mix at the turn.
Berger then matched his front-nine coming in, also playing to 2-under, with birdies on 13 and 15. A tap-in par putt on the 18th hole got him into the clubhouse at -10, and basically sealed the win, even though the lead group still had three holes to play.
Cabrera-Bello was the only player with a realistic shot at catching Berger by that point, needing two birdies over the final three holes, but he posted par-par-par to finish two back.
Berger had a 66 for the second straight day, even though he actually lost strokes to the field with erratic driving, hitting just 6 of 14 fairways. He was great in every other part of his game, however, particularly his approach shots.
What It Means For Berger
Berger had not played particularly well in his previous four starts, and had a disastrous weekend in his last start (77-78 finish at THE PLAYERS) but the FedEx St. Jude Classic victory gives him so much needed momentum going into next week’s U.S. Open.
Just 24 years old, Berger is among the youngest players in golf with multiple victories, and nobody should be surprised if he starts challenging on the major championship stage soon.
For the year, the win marks four top 10s in 16 events. He also jumps up to 10th in the FedEx Cup standings, and it would be a surprise now if he doesn’t end up in the Tour Championship at East Lake.
A T4 finish is absolutely phenomenal for amateur stud Braden Thornberry, who won the NCAA individual championship just two weeks ago. This tournament was the first PGA Tour event for the 20-year-old Ole Miss sophomore, who is likely to be playing many more events very soon.
Thornberry rose 28 spots up the leaderboard with a bogey-free five-under 65 that included an eagle on the third hole. He was especially incredible on the greens, where he finished second for the week in strokes gained: putting.
Billy Horschel won the AT&T Byron Nelson last month and now has a top-5 to add to his recent resume. Horschel finished with four straight birdies to post a 6-under 64 that was the low round of the day, and tied the low round of the week.
Another player who caught fire on the back was Harris English, who had five birdies in a six-hole stretch from 11-16, to shoot a 5-under 65. English was the biggest riser of the day, jumping 35 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for 10th.
Coming into the week, Ben Crane had fallen all the way to No. 461 in the world rankings, but as a 54-hole co-leader, the five-time Tour winner was in great position for his first victory since 2014.
Crane, however, was all over the map on Sunday, with four birdies (the same number as Berger), but seven bogeys. The seven bogeys were especially puzzling since he had just two bogeys over the first three rounds combined. He finished T10, just his second top 10 in the past three seasons.
Matching Crane’s 3-over 73 was one of his round 3 co-leaders, Stewart Cink.
Looking for his first victory since the 2009 Open Championship, Cink has been having his best season in years and really could have validated it with a strong Sunday. Unfortunately, the 44-year-old started the back nine bogey-double bogey and was unable to get back on track.
The big faller of the day was Retief Goosen, who started the day in ninth, but after a birdie-free six-over 76, he dropped all the way to even-par for the tournament and a share of 47th place. Goosen missed nine of his first 10 cuts to start the season, but had been looking better as of late.
Phil Mickelson, who has an incredible track record at TPC Southwind got his final round off to a furious start with five birdies in his first 10 holes.
However, despite 42 career PGA Tour victories, Mickelson let the moment get to him when he suddenly found himself tied for the lead on the 12th tee box.
Mickelson said that when he saw he was tied for the lead, he was shaken, as he did not expect to be in that position. Phil said it was as if “he had never won before,” lost his focus and then proceeded to triple-bogey the 12th after hitting his drive out of bounds, and then hit his fourth shot into the water.
Mickelson finished his final round in 2-under 68, which was good for solo-ninth place.
— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) June 11, 2017
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 11, 2017
“I’m extremely proud. I’m one-for-one defending titles, so that’s a good stat, but I just battled so hard today and played so good, and I just can’t be happier.”
–Daniel Berger, Back-to-back FedEx St. Jude Classic Champion