Monday Scramble: Daniel Berger gets big win, but big Bryson steals show
The PGA Tour returned on a grand scale last week, ending a three-month hiatus with a dramatic and entertaining event at Colonial. From Daniel Berger's breakthrough to Bryson DeChambeau's weight gain to Jordan Spieth's dizzying ups and downs, we've broken it down in this week's Monday Scramble:
The "new normal" on the PGA Tour due to COVID-19
1. After a break of more than three months, the PGA tour continued at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
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TAKEAWAY: Given that he had several weeks to think about the return of the sport, it's hard to imagine a better scenario for tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Consider:
• A loaded field was displayed up to Colonial, highlighted by the top five players in the world.
• The COVID-19 tests performed earlier this week were 100 percent negative for both players and caddies in Fort Worth (although it is worth noting that one player and three caddies tested positive on the Korn Ferry Tour).
• The focus quickly shifted back to golfing. Many of the tour's biggest names huddled around their position, creating a highly anticipated final round in which more than a dozen players started the day within three strokes of the lead.
• The finals were full of action, even if there were no fans to witness. A number of challengers gave way to a sudden death playoff when the tournament resulted in two cumbersome lip service.
Watch (or not): Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele suffer from brutal lip service
The way back to normal, both for the tour and for sport in general, remains arduous and tedious. The reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic will be further specified in the coming weeks when the traveling "bubble" of the tour moves through the country. But for at least a week, when the product of the sport was on the main stage, everything went as well as you could imagine.
Berger is back! "Scrapped my butt ... I'm glad it all paid off"
2. The constant performance finally paid off for Daniel Berger, who scored his first tour win in three years.
TAKEAWAY: The Travelers Championship 2017 will be remembered for Spieth's dramatic bunker hole-out to win a playoff. It is less memorable that his overtime victory came against Berger, who would consequently reach 18th place in the world, but has largely been on the slide since then.
Berger made the Presidents Cup team this year and was on many short lists with promising prospects after winning two tour titles before his 25th birthday. But a wrist injury from 2018 slowed him down considerably and he arrived at Fort Worth this week and finished 107th in the world.
The Corona virus interruption came at a particularly bad time for Berger, who ended T-9 or better on each of his three starts before The Players was canceled. But he had no rust in the past three months and sniffed again on the 72nd hole with a 10-foot birdie putt to take the lead in the clubhouse, and then won with a par in the first playoff hole.
A wrist injury taught Daniel Berger not to take the success of the PGA Tour for granted
Berger has now completed 28 rounds par or better in a row, a stretch that goes back to the Houston Open in October and marks the longest active series of this kind on the tour. A lot has happened in the game since Berger played consecutively in Memphis in 2016 and 2017, but Sunday's performance showed that he still has enough firepower to return to the top level of the game.
DeChambeau: If I do putts, I win "many times this week"
3. While many giggled at Bryson DeChambeau's beefy new look, he let his game do the talking on a grand scale.
TAKEAWAY: At the beginning of the week there was a lot of giggles when the cameras got their first view of a DeChambeau after quarantine, which also sent a ... creative video that shows all the work he did in during the unexpected break of the tour the muscle building is stuck. He told reporters that he had gained another 20 pounds in three months and increased his weight to 240 pounds after being listed at 205 in the tour's media guide.
But no one laughed when DeChambeau brought his 5.5-degree driver into play at Colonial, firing rockets from the tee, and taking angles never seen before on one of the tour's most historic layouts.
DeChambeau has always done things his way, from single-length irons to a short flirt with saddled putti to a detailed and philosophical approach to swing. His latest project to pack pounds to increase ball and swing speed undoubtedly went against the convention. But it also works.
DeChambeau led the field at driving distance and the rest of his game did not suffer from the extra weight of his frame. While a final birdie putt brushed the edge, he still carded three rounds of 66 or better on the way to a T-3 target on a course he'd historically struggled with. And he did this while hitting eight trips of 353 meters or longer.
As his tour professional Roberto Castro put it, DeChambeau collected a series of trophies at amateur and professional level "35 meters ago".
"If he doesn't get much worse or injured in another part of the game," Castro wrote, "be careful."
4. Jordan Spieth made another start on one of his favorite tracks and reaffirmed that he is a must in the competition.
TAKEAWAY: Spieth is a lot, but it's not boring. The roller coaster ride he did at Colonial started on Thursday with a back-nine 30, and he was at the top of the leaderboard on Friday morning. But the golden child's dichotomy was revealed a short time later when he putted four times for a double bogey, including a pair of failures from a distance of 3 feet.
There were miraculous brawls and jagged wedges. There were a number of range sessions with Caddy Michael Greller, sprayed drives, birdie runs and mysterious misfires. And without galleries that could produce white noise, Spieth's turbulent inner monologue was completely visible.
In search of his first win in almost three years, Spieth finished T-10. There's no denying that Colonial is one of Spieth's happiest hunting grounds, a place where he now has a win and two runners-up in six top-ten finishes in eight starts.
Last year's T-8 finish seemed to signal a turnaround, and instead served as a flood mark for a dark campaign. Time will tell if his auspicious return to competition will have more stamina this time.
FIVE PLAYERS ENTERED TO REBIND ...
• Collin Morikawa: Career win # 2 should not be because Morikawa missed a few short putts over the last two holes at Colonial. His cuts since becoming a professional have now reached 22 events, and his head-turning irons continue to shine on legendary venues like Hogans Alley. It won't be long before the 23-year-old gets another chance to stand over a putt to win.
Schauffele after costly failures: "Angry right now"
• Xander Schauffele: Schauffele's frustrations continued on Sunday when his brand fell to 0: 4 with at least a share in the 54-hole lead after his record scratch on a lipstick on the 17th green. Schauffele has won four times on the tour, everything from behind, and he made a few timely putts in front of his often-repeated horseshoe. But between the playoff defeat in Kapalua and the near miss on Sunday, he's overdue for a win.
• Rory McIlroy: McIlroy was one of the few big names that ignored Sunday in Fort Worth and shot the opening hole on the way to a 41 outside. After McIlroy started the final lap by just three shots, he dropped to T-32. It was his first time outside of the Top 5 since October and his worst result since a missed cut at Royal Portrush.
• Jon Rahm: None of the top three players in the world hit the top 30 at Colonial, but Rahm was the only one who didn't play over the weekend. Cream wasn't too bad, but he only made five birdies in 36 holes. It was his first missed cut on the PGA Tour since ... the last time he played Colonial 13 months ago.
• Rickie Fowler: Fowler was the only player with a microphone during the competition, but he dug an early hole with opening 73. A better game in round 2 was not enough to make the cut, as Fowler and his audio system both slammed the trunk shut.
THE WINNERS THIS WEEK ...
The waiting continues: Tiger Woods. Woods sent social media with the location of his Yacht Privacy, which went north to Georgia earlier last week. This put him within reach of this week's RBC heritage, where he could theoretically reach social distance on his boat while performing in Harbor Town for the first time since 1999. Instead, the closing date came and went without a glance from the reigning Masters champion. The monument still feels like the place where we'll see it next.
Heartbreaking story: Camilo Villegas. The Colombian hasn't been seen much in recent years, but he reappeared at the Korn Ferry Challenge last week and told reporters about his daughter Mia's health problems as the 20-year-old continues to fight brain tumors and spinal tumors. Villegas has won four times on the PGA Tour and reached number 7 in the world in 2008. With a show of solidarity and his daughter, who is in the middle of chemotherapy, Villegas finished T-33 in Ponte Vedra Beach and will be an easy-to-find player in the coming weeks.
Commanding captain: Steve Stricker. Ryder Cup officials announced last week that Stricker will have six picks this year, two more than its original allocation of four selections for eight automatic qualifiers. Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods were suddenly out looking for a qualification, although both seem like logical tips in a few months. Stricker now has more control over his squad than any of his American predecessors, and the change in rule seemed to signal that the biennial games in September remain on track regardless of how many fans can participate in Whistling Straits.
Do not reverse: Justin Rose. Two years after a clinical win at Colonial, Rose challenged again before she missed a shot. The Englishman's T-3 finish was his first start since officially separating from Honma, and his performance with a provisional bag is in stark contrast to an ice-cold start to the 2020 season. Yes, it's only a week, but Rose seems to be satisfied with his decision to shake the bag.
Playing for a bigger cause: Harold Varner III and Joseph Bramlett. Nationwide protests against racial problems sparked two of only four players with tour status and African American heritage. Varner received the praise he deserved earlier this week for his heartfelt reflection on the questions surrounding George Floyd's death. Then he went out and took part of the lead in the opening lap on the way to the T-19 goal. Bramlett did not qualify for Colonial, but instead went to the Korn Ferry Event and ended T-2 after four rounds in the 1960s.
"A win is a win": a sweet win for Luke List, even if he plays down a tour
Win is a win: Luke List. Like Bramlett, List is completely exempt from the PGA tour this season, but didn't have enough status to receive an invitation to Colonial. Instead, he resumed his season at the Korn Ferry Challenge, where he scored his first win since 2012. List lost a playoff against Thomas at the 2018 Honda Classic, but had not broken the top 10 since the PGA championship in Bethpage. Now he is returning to the PGA Tour with a trophy and a little more momentum.
Half a century: Phil Mickelson (one day earlier). Mickelson turns 50 on Tuesday, marking a milestone for a player who has been one of the most popular on the tour for almost three decades. Lefty spoke with optimism when he returned to work at Colonial, but he left town with his third consecutive miss and will now have the opportunity to celebrate at home this week. A festive cup of coffee may be required.
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