Berger wins playoff at Colonial in US PGA virus return
Daniel Berger of the United States celebrates with the plaid jacket and Leonard trophy after defeating Collin Morikawa of the United States in a playoff of the Charles Schwab Challenge. AFP
Daniel Berger parred the first playoff hole Sunday to defeat Collin Morikawa and capture the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first US PGA event in three months after a coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
Berger went over the green with his approach at the par-4 17th in the playoff, chipped inches from the cup and tapped in, then watched Morikawa lip out from three feet on the left edge to deliver the emotional victory at Colonial Country Club.
It marked the biggest moment in Berger's fightback from a left wrist injury that threatened his career. "This is one of the greatest days of my life, from where I've been and where I've come from," Berger said. "It has been a long year and a half. I'm happy to be here."
The victory, which came with no spectators on the course, was the third career US PGA title for Berger, whose wins at the 2016 and 2017 St. Jude Classics also came on the second weekend of June. It was a level the 27-year-old Floridian feared he might not attain again after his injury. "It's just a range of emotions," said Berger. "I've grinded so hard the last two months -- just to be in this position. I'm glad all the hard work paid off. "I came back stronger than I ever have before, and I wanted it more than I ever have before. It means more than it ever did before."
Morikawa, who found the rough twice in the playoff before chipping to three feet, shook his head and said, "Just hit a bad putt. It's going to sting for a little bit," he added. "But we'll make it out and move on to next week."
Morikawa also missed left on a birdie putt from just inside six feet at 18 to settle for a spot in the playoff. Berger closed with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole in regulation to fire a four-under par 66 in the final round at Fort Worth, Texas, to match Morikawa after 72 holes on 15-under 265.
Britain's Justin Rose and Americans Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak and Bryson DeChambeau shared third on 266 with US stars Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed another shot back. In the final regulation holes, Morikawa made a stunning birdie putt from just inside 50 feet at the par-4 14th to match Schauffele for the lead at 15-under.
At 15, Schauffele blasted out of a fairway bunker and rolled into water left of the green, then made a 31-foot bogey putt to fall only one back.
Schauffele followed by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th but missed the playoff by missing a three-foot par putt at 17, the ball rolling around the edge and out, and coming up just short from 24 feet on a birdie putt at 18. "I'm playing really good golf," said Schauffele. "There's no reason to do what I'm doing."
Schauffele lost for the fourth time after leading a PGA event through 54 holes. The event was the tour's first after a 91-day shutdown due to the deadly disease outbreak.
Rose misses playoff
Rose was just short on an 18-foot birdie putt at 18 to finish in the 266 pack. "It did look good," Rose said. "A couple feet out, I thought I had made it. A lot of guys are going to know they had a chance."
World number one Rory McIlroy struggled to a 74 to share 32nd on 274. Harold Varner, among three African-American players on tour and the center of the PGA's racial justice conversation after the death of George Floyd, led after 36 holes but closed with a 72 to finish on 271. "I was just focusing on playing good golf," Varner said. "Today wasn't what I'd like but all in all a great week."
The tour's revamped schedule sends players to the Heritage tournament in South Carolina next week.