Berger completes first PGA Tour win at St. Jude
American Daniel Berger became the 13th first-time winner on this year’s PGA Tour with victory at the St Jude Classic on Sunday.
Having been forced to wait out a three-hour rain delay before his final round got underway, Berger shot a three-under 67 to finish at 13-under, three strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Brooks Koepka.
After playing the first four holes at one-over par and allowing Koepka to catch him at 9-under, Berger responded. He calmly drained an 8 metre birdie putt at the par-4 sixth to build a two-stroke lead over Koepka and a fast-closing Johnson.
Berger then withstood a late charge by World No. 6 Dustin Johnson, repeated challenges from 17th-ranked Brooks Koepka and multiple runs by World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson and veteran Steve Stricker, a 12-time winner on tour before closing out the win.
“To kind of get it done today means a lot,” said Berger upon claiming his first career win and the US$1.116 million prize.
“To do that with so many great players, Hall of Famers behind me, it’s something that I’ll never forget and I just love the way I hung in there and was able to get it done.”
The 2015 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year was one of only two golfers in the event to shoot all four rounds under par with rounds of 67-64-69-67, playing the final 12 holes at 3-under par on his way to the win.
Berger qualified for the 2013 Web.com Tour and played four events. The following year, he finished T2 at the TPC Stonebrae Championship and ranked 15th in the season-long Web.com Tour standings, which earned him a promotion to the PGA Tour for the 2014–15 season
On the PGA Tour, Berger already had claimed second twice with a total of nine top-10′s finishes. Sunday’s win also sees him with a start at this week’s US Open.
“I’ve played so well the last six to seven weeks, it was just a matter of time before I had a real, real shot at winning,” said Berger. “And I feel like those experiences last year really helped me get to where I am right now.”
Berger jumped 17 spots to No. 29 in the world after his three-shot win. It marks a career high for the 23-year-old, who began the year ranked No. 53 and whose previous high of No. 41 was reached last month.
Matt Jones was the best-placed Australian in a tie for 26th at two under after he closed with an even-par round. Cameron Percy was the next best Aussie with his 1-over total keeping him 14 shots off the leader and in a share of 41st position.
Stuart Appleby (T62) and Steven Bowditch (T70) finished with disappointing final rounds to move down the leaderboard, with Bowditch carding weekend rounds of 76-72.
Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby, Mark Hensby, Rod Pampling, Rhein Gibson and Cameron Smith all missed the weekend.