A safe return for golf as Berger wins Colonial in a playoff
FORT WORTH, Texas — Daniel Berger dreamed of moments like this, a putt on the final hole with everything riding on it, and he pulled it off to perfection Sunday at Colonial.
What he never imagined is how quiet it would be.
No cheers when his 10-foot birdie on the final hole gave him a share of the lead. No groans when Collin Morikawa missed a 6-foot birdie putt for the win. And more silence on the first playoff hole that Berger won with a par.
“It was a little different for sure, but in the end, I was holding the trophy,” Berger said. “And that's all that matters to me.”
The PGA Tour made a healthy and muted return from the COVID-19 pandemic at the Charles Schwab Challenge, except for Morikawa and Xander Schauffele having reason to feel sick to their stomachs.
One hole after a chance to win in regulation, Morikawa hit a superb pitch on the 17th hole in the playoff to 3 feet. Berger converted his simple up-and-down for par from behind the green, and Morikawa's short par putt to extend the playoff hit the right side of the cup and spun out.
“Just hit a better putt,” Morikawa said. “My mind can't go much else than other what just happened on that hole.”
Schauffele, whose moxie is easy to miss behind his California cool, made three straight clutch putts — for par, bogey and birdie — that kept him tied for the lead only to learn new meaning of “Horrible Horseshoe” at Colonial. His 3-foot par putt on the 17th in regulation dipped in the hole on the right side and came out on the left.
His 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th to force a playoff was right on line and came up short.
“If there are fans and everything with the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ I’d probably be a little more (ticked) off,” Schauffele said. “Maybe that’s a good thing for me right now. But it was definitely weird. It was sort of an internal battle, which it always is for me, but more so internal this week just with no fans.”
Berger, whose birdie on the 18th gave him a 4-under 66, won for the third time on the PGA Tour, all three titles coming on this week in the calendar. The other two in 2016 and 2017 were at the St. Jude Classic when it preceded the U.S. Open.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, on the first tee when golf returned Thursday, was back in Florida watching a final round unfold with eight players taking turns at the top, and a half-dozen still in the mix over the final hour.
The scorecard this week included 487 tests for COVID-19 at Colonial, all returned negative. The leaders brought star power, Colonial brought heritage, and it was the first live PGA Tour event since March 12 because of the pandemic.
“This has been a phenomenal start to our return,” Monahan said.
Next up is the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head on the South Carolina coast, and Monahan said the first week won’t be complete until then to see how players handled the interstate travel. Those on the charter were tested after the third round. Everyone else would be tested when they arrived at Hilton Head.