The 18th hole at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am was twice a fork in the road for Daniel Berger this week. On Saturday afternoon, he made double bogey after hitting his ball out of bounds. On Sunday, he eagled it for a walk-off two-stroke win over Maverick McNealy. A four-stroke swing that changed the entire tournament.
Berger's double on Saturday in Round 3 meant that Berger was no longer in the final group for the finale. This was maybe a good thing for him considering Jordan Spieth was in the final group, and that dynamic has not always ended well for Berger. He lost to Spieth in a playoff at the 2017 Travelers Championship and somehow found himself two down after Spieth played pretty mediocre golf on Saturday at Pebble.
Berger played ahead of his former Presidents Cup mate on Sunday and put two 3s on the card in the first three holes. He went out in 33, and it became clear that he was among the two or three golfers who truly had a grip on the golf tournament. After a near hole-out on the 15th left him rolling around in the sand, the stage was set for a crazy ending, and Berger delivered albeit in a much different way than on Saturday.
At 16 under through 71 holes, Berger nuked a drive on No. 18. With Patrick Cantlay and Nate Lashley nipping at his heels along with McNealy in the house at 16 under, he hit a lusty 3-wood to set up two putts for the win. He only needed one of them for the 65 and win.
"That was the best putt I've ever hit in my life," said Berger, who also noted that the 3-wood into 18 was the best he's ever hit.
This touches off an impressive 12-month run for Berger, who has nine top 10s in his last 19 events dating back to last year's Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That includes two wins -- one at Colonial in the first PGA Tour event back from a three-month break and this one.
It's big in any year but even more so for Berger as he missed the Masters in November and is trying to qualify for the first Ryder Cup of his terrific career. One famous hole made such a huge difference in how things ended on Saturday, just as it did on Sunday. For Berger, the order things happened mattered very much, and it resulted in the fourth PGA Tour win of his career. Grade: A+
Maverick McNealy (2nd): The former Stanford superstar clearly learned from another Stanford superstar. He needed eagle on No. 18 to have a chance, and he hit a missile on his second shot before club twirling the shaft off his iron. A sight to behold. He gets an "A" for the week but an "A+" on the twirl alone. Grade: A+
Patrick Cantlay (T3): Cantlay felt like the problem for the leaders for much of the weekend, but it never really materialized for the former No. 1 amateur in the world. After a 62 on Thursday, he stalled out on Friday at Spyglass Hill in Round 2, and that probably cost him a frontrunning spot come Sunday. However, every time I watch him I'm more impressed. He makes scoring look so easy, even when I know it's not. The numbers don't say it, but he really seems like a top-5 player in the world right now. Grade: A-
Jordan Spieth (T3): The four-time major champ ran out of magic late on Sunday as his driver left him and he gave himself no scoring opportunities. Still, I leave this week even more encouraged than I left last week because he contended this week without making any putts at all. (Spieth lost strokes to the field with his putter.) What he did this week is sustainable and reminiscent of what we used to get every week from Spieth. Average to above average with the driver, tremendous with his irons, and if he makes putts, he wins. That's the formula, and it's the one Spieth used this week to stay in the mix through about 70 holes. Grade: A
Nate Lashley (T5): Boy, the ending was tough. He played so well for 69 holes, and then he four-putted from 12 feet on the 16th hole to give Berger a clear path to victory. A lot to take away for Lashley, who went to battle against Cantlay, Berger and Spieth, but that 7 on No. 16 is going to linger. Grade: B-
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