BERGER SCORES PLAYOFF VICTORY IN PGA’S RETURN
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.
Daniel Berger takes a selfie after winning the Charles Schwab Challenge.