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VOL. 131 | NO. 117 | Monday, June 13, 2016

Berger Holds Off Mickelson and Others to Win FESJC

By Don Wade

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Daniel Berger carried a 3-stroke lead and a lot of confidence into Sunday’s final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. He didn’t even care that the crowd behind him included 42-time PGA Tour winner Phil Mickelson.

“If it was Tiger Woods behind me I would have the same mentality,” Berger said a day before winning his first PGA Tour stop. “It doesn’t matter. The golf course doesn’t know who is playing it.”

Daniel Berger waves to the crowd after winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic golf tournament Sunday, June 12. Berger shot a 3-under 67 to clinch his first PGA Tour title.

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Berger ultimately dominated this course, firing a final-round 67 to finish 13-under for the tournament and three strokes in front of Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Steve Stricker at 10-under.

The final round was delayed by storms for about three hours Sunday afternoon. None of it rattled Berger, 23, who came into the event 46th in the World Golf Rankings but also as the Tour’s reigning Rookie of the Year.

During the delay Mickelson poked fun at Berger, wondering if there had ever been a Rookie of the Year to go winless.

“Kind of pissed me off,” said Berger, who began the waiting game when play was stopped after he missed a makeable putt and took a bogey on the first hole.

“I just loved the way I was able to hang in there and get it done,” he added. “Back nine, I just kind of putted lights out.”

Berger was 11-under after 13 holes but then birdied 14 and 15 to go 13-under. Nobody was catching him after that. He sank a 32-footer on the Par 3 No. 14. The day before, he had hit into the water.

“I just made a confident swing, 30 feet left and that’s really where I wanted to be,” Berger said. “To get the putt to go, it was just a little extra.”

And that extra put distance between him and the field.

“There was a time when it looked like it would be close,” Stricker said, “but he kind of ran away with it there at the end.”

Said Mickelson: “He played some great golf, played a really good back nine.”

On Saturday, Berger had joked about calling Mickelson “Philip – that’s his name, Philip. He says only his wife can call him that. I can’t call him that until I win on the PGA Tour.”

Sunday, Berger called him “Philip” and Mickelson was cool with it.

“He was like, `You earned it,’” Berger said.

Daniel is the son of former pro tennis player Jay Berger, who incidentally played the pro tennis event at The Racquet Club once. Daniel looks forward to coming back to the site of his first PGA Tour win – he appreciates the barbecue, by the way – but mostly is looking ahead to next week’s U.S. Open at Oakmont and the rest of the season.

“I feel that now I’ve won once, I can win 10 more times,” he said.

His challengers at the FESJC were also pointing toward next week.

Dustin Johnson tied a course record by shooting a 29 on the back nine to finish fifth at 9-under.

“Gives me a lot of confidence,” Johnson said. “(My) game is actually really good.”

Koepka shot a 66 Sunday to finish 10-under after starting the day 6-under. He made six birdies.

“Just went back to the basics (on putting),” Koepka said. “Obviously, today was nice. I struck the ball well. I putted it well. My game is peaking.”

Mickelson started the day 7-under and shot a 67 to get to 10-under. He heads to Oakmont to try and win the one major championship that has escaped him.

“It was fun to be in the thick of it,” he said of Sunday’s final round here. “Being in contention, it almost feels like the U.S. Open came a week early to finish another second-place.”

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