BERGER SCORES PLAY­OFF VIC­TORY IN PGA’S RE­TURN

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - JON MCCARTHY

At the be­gin­ning of the week, the Charles Sch­wab Chal­lenge felt far big­ger than a golf tour­na­ment, so it’s fit­ting that on Sun­day we were re­minded that golf is a game of inches.

Daniel Berger won the PGA Tour’s re­turn to ac­tion at Colo­nial in Fort Worth, Texas on the first play­off hole over Collin Morikawa. Berger shot a 4-un­der par 66 to get into the play­off at 15-un­der.

Morikawa shot a 3-un­der 67 in reg­u­la­tion and had a chance to ex­tend the play­off to a second hole but lipped out a par putt from in­side four feet, end­ing his chances and mak­ing Berger the cham­pion. It’s Berger’s third win on tour but first in three years af­ter a hand in­jury nearly de­railed his ca­reer.

“You just never really know if you’re go­ing to be in the same po­si­tion again,” Berger said.

“I don’t really know if there is a key other than when I came back, I came back stronger than I ever have be­fore, and I wanted it more than I ever have be­fore, and it’s the great­est feel­ing in the world.”

All week, play­ers were asked how weird it would feel to make a win­ning putt on the 18th hole on Sun­day with­out fans at the course. Berger came clos­est to that ex­pe­ri­ence when he drilled a 10-foot birdie put on the 72nd hole to get to 15-un­der and into a play­off.

“Yeah, you still feel that pres­sure, you know ex­actly where you stand,” Berger said. “You know, I dreamt of a putt like that to get into a play­off or to win, so it was kind of just like rep­e­ti­tion go­ing through my mind. I hit a great putt, and it went in. It was a great way to fin­ish the day. It was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for sure, but in the end I was hold­ing the tro­phy, and that’s all that mat­ters to me.”

Be­fore lip­ping out his putt in the play­off, Morikawa also missed a seven-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole in reg­u­la­tion that would have earned him the win. The 23-year-old has made ev­ery cut on the PGA Tour in his young ca­reer and is four tour­na­ments shy of ty­ing Tiger Woods’ record of 25 con­sec­u­tive made cuts to be­gin a ca­reer.

“On 18 I ac­tu­ally hit a really good putt, and granted, it was a really bad mis­read. I should have brought my caddy in,” Morikawa said. “What hap­pened on the play­off hole was just not a good putt. It was firm right and ev­ery­thing that couldn’t have hap­pened.”

Min­utes be­fore the play­off, 54-hole leader Xan­der Schauf­fele dropped out of a share of the lead when he stun­ningly missed a par putt from in­side three feet, his ball horse­shoe­ing around the lip of the cup.

For Morikawa and Schauf­fele, it will be hard to for­get the lit­tle things as their heads hit the pil­low, but the rest of the golf world will wake up to the big pic­ture of the PGA Tour’s suc­cess­ful re­turn to ac­tion. Af­ter shut­ting down for 91 days — the long­est un­sched­uled break since the Second World War — the world’s best golfers got back to work and the Charles Sch­wab Chal­lenge at his­toric Colo­nial Golf Club in Fort Worth didn’t dis­ap­point.

With 16 of the top 20 play­ers in the world tee­ing it up, the Sun­day leader­board was packed with stars, in­clud­ing Justin Rose and a buffed-up Bryson Decham­beau, who fin­ished tied with Schauf­fele and Ja­son Kokrak in a group of four play­ers at 14-un­der, one shot out of the play­off.

Ev­ery­one’s favourite golf vil­lain Pa­trick Reed and two-time Mas­ters champ Bubba Wat­son fin­ished at 13-un­der, one shot ahead of reign­ing U.S. Open champ Gary Wood­land, who fin­ished at 12-un­der. World No. 4 Justin Thomas and a resur­gent Jor­dan Spi­eth fin­ished in a large group at 11-un­der.

“Didn’t have all my weapons yet,” Spi­eth said. “But I cer­tainly gained more this week, gained a lot of con­fi­dence. I’m mak­ing those putts from mid to long range and I’m driv­ing the ball in good po­si­tion. So it’s really just clean­ing up the wedges and stuff that I’m nor­mally really sharp with. That cer­tainly had a bit of rust on it. I feel really good go­ing into the next cou­ple weeks for sure.”

Per­haps the big­gest sur­prise of Sun­day was world No. 1 Rory Mcil­roy, who en­tered the day at 10-un­der and among the lead­ers be­fore shoot­ing a 4-over 74 that be­gan with a front-nine 41.

Corey Con­ners of Lis­towel, Ont., was the low Cana­dian, fin­ish­ing tied for 19th at 9-un­der de­spite a fi­nal round 1-over 71. Adam Had­win of Ab­bots­ford, B.C., fin­ished T43 at 4-un­der, and Macken­zie Hughes of Dun­das, Ont., missed the cut.

HULK SMASH DRIVER

Bryson Decham­beau will be one of the most in­ter­est­ing play­ers to watch all sum­mer as the mad sci­en­tist has turned him­self into golf’s ver­sion of the In­cred­i­ble Hulk. He has put on 20 pounds of mus­cle since go­ing into COVID-19 quar­an­tine and is us­ing a 5.5 de­gree driver. Af­ter his round on Sun­day, he talked about his dis­tance gains com­pared to last sea­son.

“I was fly­ing it prob­a­bly 295 to 300 and now I’m fly­ing it over — like with no wind or any­thing — prob­a­bly around 325, 330 very easily,” he said.

A jour­nal­ist at the course sneaked in a Barry Bonds-type of ques­tion about his hat size.

“My hat size didn’t change,” Decham­beau said.

“There’s not very many mus­cles up here that I can train around the brain. But no, that’s pretty much stayed the same.”

Watch out, don’t make Hulk mad.

DUKES OF BUBBA

Bubba Wat­son is look­ing to park the Gen­eral Lee at a mu­seum, or at least some­where other than his garage.

“So yes, I have the Gen­eral Lee, and I’ve been search­ing, we’d love to give it to a mu­seum be­cause we be­lieve that it’s TV his­tory,” Wat­son said of the fa­mous car from the ’70s show Dukes of Haz­zard. “It’s noth­ing against race on that show. I didn’t buy the car based on race. I bought it based on my fam­ily, me and my dad, me and my mom watch­ing that show, but ob­vi­ously there’s no flags around that car. The flags have been re­moved from that car.”

In 2015, he gave it a paint job to re­move the con­fed­er­ate flags, but now it ap­pears he wants to get as far away from the car as he can. Or maybe he just got tired of climb­ing in and out of the win­dows.

TOM PEN­NING­TON/GETTY IM­AGES

Daniel Berger takes a selfie af­ter win­ning the Charles Sch­wab Chal­lenge.

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