Cleat Geeks

The 19th Hole: FedEx St. Jude

DanielBergerEven as several proven champions lurked just behind him on the leaderboard, Daniel Berger didn’t waver. And a run of late birdies, including a cross-country effort on the 14th hole, propelled Berger to his first career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

“I got off to a poor start but I hung in there and made some clutch par putts on the first three, four holes and that kind of got me going and then, you know, on the back nine I just kind of putted lights out which you have to do sometimes to win and I feel like, you know, now that I’ve won once I can win 10 more times,” Berger said after the round.

It wasn’t easy, with a long rain delay Sunday to think about the likes of Hall-of-Famer Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker providing the chase pack for the 23-year-old Berger, who entered the final round with a three-shot lead.

He was still just even par for the day coming to the 12th hole before his hot finish. He birdied 12, then snaked in a 32-foot putt on the 239-yard, par-three 14th, before finishing with one more birdie at the 15th hole before cruising home.

Mickelson, Stricker and Brooks Koepka all tied for second, three shots back. It’s the second runner-up finish for Koepka in the last month, after his close call at the AT&T Byron Nelson classic three weeks ago.

Johnson made a big move early with a 63, but finished in a tie for 5th another shot back.

Phil+Mickelson+Daniel+BergerThe bad news for Berger, who was last year’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year? No player ever has won the week prior to the U.S. Open and then gone on to win golf’s second major, which begins Thursday at Oakmont.

Berger isn’t too worried about that at the moment. In fact, one of his highlights from the win is that he now gets to get in a little ribbing back at Mickelson, who’s famous for getting after many of the younger players.

“We were sitting in the lunch room today during the rain delay and Phil was giving me crap, he was wondering if in the history of the Rookie Of The Year had any Rookie Of The Year won Rookie Of The Year without winning a tournament and he said that and it kind of pissed me off a little bit but to kind of get it done today just means a lot.”


LPGA/Champions majors

The LPGA and PGA Champions Tour each hosted major championships this past week, and each brought plenty of drama.

Two of the top players in the women’s game, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson, wound up in a playoff at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Ko was seeking her third straight major win on the ladies’ circuit but Henderson had other plans, stuffing her approach shot to four feet before making the winning putt.

The Champons Tour, for players age 50 and over, saw Bernhard Langer get up and down from a bunker on the 72nd hole to outlast Miguel Angel Jiminez and Joe Durant by a shot. It’s Langer’s seventh career senior major win.


FedEx St. Jude picks

I mean, we’re starting to get pretty decent at this. That’s three winners the last four weeks. It might be time to retire and move to Vegas.

Daniel Berger – As chronicled above, he found the winner’s circle for the first time on the PGA Tour. 13-under, winner.

Brooks Koepka – As also mentioned above, he had another close call but ultimately couldn’t overcome the young Berger. It was still a strong week. 10-under, tied for 2nd.

Wesley Bryan – The top player on the Tour made the cut and earned his first paycheck on the big tour. 4-over, tied for 58th.

Ryan Palmer – The Texan needed a top-10 finish to punch his ticket into the U.S. Open this week. It didn’t quite happen. 7-over, tied for 68th.

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