By Kyle Porter CBS sports
The first PGA Tour event back after a three-month pause amid of the coronavirus pandemic was an electrifying (and at times torturous) affair. Daniel Berger won the 2020 Charles Schwab Challenge in a playoff over Collin Morikawa, but it was about as hollow an ending as it could have been following a wild closing stretch.
Not all of that is Berger’s fault. He slammed the door on a 15-under 265 with a birdie at the last hole of regulation when nobody else in front of him could clear the 14-under hurdle. That 15-under spot was tied by Morikawa and Xander Schauffele, who both closed unceremoniously behind Berger. After a spicy wedge to 6 feet on the 18th, Morikawa missed a putt that would have won it for him in regulation. Then Schauffele somehow missed a 3-footer on the 17th to fall one stroke back of both Morikawa and Berger. He went on to miss the playoff by that one stroke.
In that playoff on the 17th hole, Morikawa also missed a 3-footer to gift wrap the victory for Berger. It was fitting there were no fans in attendance because even if there were, they wouldn’t have made any noise following that downer of an ending. Berger played tremendously throughout the week, but it almost felt at the end as if we needed one more round to facilitate a proper ending.
The win is the latest in a long stretch of good play for the now three-time winner on the PGA Tour. Sunday’s 66 is his 28th straight round at par or better and highlights what has been a very underrated 2020. Both of his previous wins came at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis at TPC Southwind, which is kind of fitting given what world No. 1 Rory McIlroy said about Colonial Country Club — site of this week’s tournament — earlier in the week.
“Obviously it’s not the longest course on Tour, but you really need to position your ball around the golf course very well,” said McIlroy. “It reminds me of a few different places. I can sort of see a little bit of TPC Southwind in Memphis out there, a little bit of Valderrama in Spain, just really having to hit it in certain parts of the fairways and not taking on too much.”
Berger hit it in all the right spots all week. He finished 10th in strokes gained on approach shots, which when he’s playing well is his bread and butter. The golf has not been great for him in quite a while, though. He dropped out of the top 150 in the world at the end of 2019 after battling a wrist injury for the better part of a year. But this is his fourth consecutive top-10 finish (albeit over a five-month span), and he is again in the conversation as one of the better under-30 American golfers.
Winning Colonial this week was a big deal. Not just due to the fact that it was the first event back but also because of the field Berger beat. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy all had late tee times on Sunday afternoon, but it was Berger who eventually emerged from the heap with a continuation to his great opening to 2020. Though there was a healthy intermission between the first and second acts this year, Berger has made a full rebound from a tough few up-and-down seasons and again climbed to the top of professional golf. It’s fitting that it happened at a tournament that was a roller coaster for most of the last few hours. Grade: A+
Bryson DeChambeau (T3): As prepared as I felt like I was for 245-pound Bryson, I was not prepared at all. He ended up leading this field in strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained from tee to green and driving distance (he clipped Matthew Wolff by 1 yard, 340 to 339). It’s going to take a few weeks to digest all of this (coincidentally, the same amount of time it will take Bryson to digest one of his five daily protein shakes), but I do know that he’s elevated himself to become one of the five most interesting players on the PGA Tour until further notice. Grade: A
Jordan Spieth (T10): I didn’t hit a single shot this week, and I still feel like I went 15 rounds deep just from watching Spieth for four straight days. The amusement park ride has pulled into the dock for another week, but I may need to find somebody else to follow this closely in the future. Spieth’s entire week was summed up by a three-hole, 45-minute stretch on Sunday in which he birdied Nos. 12 and 13 and hit his tee shot out of bounds on No. 14 before somehow recovering for bogey. He didn’t win, but his was the best show in town throughout. Grade: A
Rory McIlroy (T32): What felt like a near-certain top-five finish for McIlroy turned into a near-disaster on Sunday. He went out in 41 and only sort of recovered on the back nine to shoot 74 and finish T32 to break his 10-month streak of finishing in the top five in PGA Tour events. Everything went poorly for him on Sunday, but his week overall wasn’t that bad (and certainly nothing to get concerned about). The putting numbers weren’t there, but he finished top five in driving and top 25 from tee to green. Zero concerns about the rest of his season. Grade: C
Jon Rahm (MC): Quietly, the most disappointing week from anyone belonged to Rahm, who has been scorching over the last year and has a nice history at Colonial. His iron play lacked, but the reason he missed the cut on Friday was because of an ice-cold putter that lost him four strokes to the field. Because that’s the case I’m not worried about his future — I’d be far more concerned if he was awful from tee to green (he wasn’t) — but I still expected a lot more this week. Grade: F