PEBBLE BEACH, California – For all the stunning views of Pebble Beach that can be so soothing, Daniel Berger could not escape the excitement as he arrived for the final hole Sunday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
He was tied to the lead and needed a birdie on par-5 18. to win. To his right, markers lay outside the boundaries under a series of hurdles, with Berger hitting his drive on Saturday, leading to a double skew. To his left was the Pacific Ocean.
“I was going to swing down,” he said.
Two of the best swings of his career, a driver into the fairway and a 3-pointer from 250 yards away in the cool air at sea level, left him 30 feet and two putts away. Berger shielded it with an eagle putt for a 7-under 65 and a 2-shot victory over Maverick McNealy.
“To step up there and hit a good drive and then one of the best 3-woods I’ve ever hit in my life, and then it’s as good as it gets for me to make that putt,” Berger said .
He finished at 18-under 270 for his fourth career victory.
Berger started his final round with a 4-iron to 20-foot eagle on the par-5 hole to catch up Jordan Spieth in no time at all. And while the cast continued to change, Berger was never out of the mix until he got the last word with one last eagle, his fourth of the week.
He won for the second time since the PGA Tour returned to golf in June from his COVID-19 break, starting with a playoff victory in Colonial, where half a dozen players had a chance to win during the final hour.
This was not much different.
Spieth went from leading to backward. He started with a 2-shot lead and was 3 shots behind after six holes, wasting the scoring stretch at Pebble Beach. He finished with two birdies for a 70 and tied for third with Patrick Cantlay (68) who made all his putts in Pebble on Thursday. Cantlay had 10 birds in the opening round when he broke the course record with a 62. He made seven birds and one eagle in two weekend rounds.
Berger saw a leaderboard leave the 18th green and knew he was tied for the lead. He just figured it would be included Nate Lashley, unaware of the events of the 16th.
Lashley, who played in the final group with Spieth, almost hollowed out his wedge on the 11th for a tap-in bird that led him to 16 under and led by 1 shot. He was tied with Berger with three holes to play when Lashley went long on the 16th hole. He struck out to 12 feet, missed par putts and then missed the next two putts from 3 foot range.
It gave him a triple bogey from which he could not recover. Lashley pinched the bottom of his putter in the green and walked without speaking to the media.
McNealy, who played at Stanford and once lived in a house near the 15th green on Pebble Beach, quietly made five birdies over his last eight holes.
“I got the adrenaline pumping down the stretch there and feelings that I hadn’t really felt on the golf course for a while when I tried to close this and give myself a chance,” McNealy said.
The last was on the 18th when his eagle putt stopped inches from the cup, giving him a 66 and a draw for the lead that did not last long. Berger was in the group behind him and he played the hole to perfection.
“I wanted to win the golf tournament. I did not want to lose it in the end, “said Berger. “I just wanted to go out there and try to hit the best shot I could and I did not want to be conservative with regard to the 3-tree coming in. “
The eagle putt was fast and broke both ways, and Berger only wanted a two-putt bird without stress. That it fell for eagle was a bonus he was far too happy to take.
Spieth finished in the top four for the second week in a row, a strong sign that his game is coming back after a drought dating to his 2017 Open victory at Royal Birkdale.
He hit a hybrid from the rough for a good look at the eagle on the second hole and just missed, and then he caught an awkward lie in a No. 3 fairway bunker, his shot low and far over the green, leaving Spieth afraid of it was out of play. He made bogey. He made bogey from a bunker on par-3 fifth and he had to play sideways from a fairway bunker on par-5 sixth and took the birdie out of the equation.
“It really was just really bad first six holes. And out here you can score, ” said Spieth. ” I needed to be a couple under six and I was 1 over. And really, that was the difference. ”
A field that contained only three players from the top 20 in the world got one of them as the winner – Berger, who was outside the top 100 in the world when golf returned in June last year, when he tried to come back from wrist injuries.
“I think today really strengthened my position as one of the best golfers out here and I just have to keep doing the things I have done, ” said Berger. And I feel like there is no limit to what I can accomplish. ”
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