While Jordan Spieth’s quest to find his previous form has captivated the golf world the past two weeks, Daniel Berger’s victory Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was a sledgehammer-subtle reminder that he already has completed an impressive comeback of his own.
Berger shared the lead entering the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills – remember the crazy Saturday when Berger and Tony Finau started early and wound up atop the leaderboard when the windy day ended? But that was before a finger issue led to wrist issues and suddenly his career had stalled.
He tried to play through it in 2019 but it didn’t work. Berger ended the season outside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points, missing the playoffs and raising questions about his health and his ability to get back to being the player he was.
That seems like a long time ago now.
When the PGA Tour restarted last summer, Berger was ranked 107th in the world, won the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first tournament back and hardly slowed down. He also picked up a second and two third-place finishes, stamping his comeback complete.
With his victory Sunday at Pebble Beach, Berger edges closer to the top 10 in the world rankings. He won by shooting a final-round 65 to separate himself from a crowded leaderboard, closing it out with a finish worthy of the scenery framing him.
Knowing he needed a birdie at the famous par-5 18th to beat Maverick McNealy, who had finished ahead of him, Berger played the 72nd hole as close to perfect as golf gets, a day after hitting his tee shot out of bounds there, leading to a double bogey.
Berger ripped a 253-yard 3-wood shot to within 30 feet of the hole then drained the putt for eagle to win his fourth PGA Tour title.
“That was the best putt I’ve hit in my life,” Berger said.
It paired nicely with the shot that set up the winning putt.
“Probably the best 3-wood of my life,” Berger said, staying on theme.
Meanwhile Spieth finished tied for third place after taking a two-stroke lead into the final round. While it didn’t end his 3½-year winless streak, it was another step forward, coming off his T4 a week earlier at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, his two best finishes in two years.
Needing one more good round to lock down what would have been a hugely popular victory, Spieth couldn’t conjure what he needed Sunday at Pebble Beach. When he bogeyed the par-5 14th hole – after picking the wrong club on his third shot following a lengthy discussion with his caddie Michael Greller – Spieth fell three behind and his chance to win was gone.
It was a big ask for anyone, particularly a guy with what feels like the whole world watching as he chases a semblance of the form that carried him to No 1 in the world five years ago. Though Spieth started Sunday with the lead, nine players were within three shots of him.
Ron Green Jr.