He was leading and needed a birdie on the par-5 18th to win. To his right, barriers under a row of obstacles where Berger had hit a car on Saturday, resulting in a double bogey. To his left was the Pacific Ocean.
I came down swinging, he said.
The two best swings of his career – a fairway and a 3-wood from 250 yards in the fresh air of sea level – enabled him to make 30 feet and two crosses. Berger putted an eagle putt for a 7 under 65 and a two stroke victory over Maverick McNeely.
Going out and having a good drive and then having one of the best three-wood strokes of my life and then making that putt is as good as it gets for me, Berger said.
He finished 18th and 270th for his fourth career victory.
Berger began his final round with a 4-under 20-foot eagle iron on the second hole par 5, overtaking Jordan Spieth in short order. And while the team was constantly changing, Berger never got out of the game until he had the last word with a final eagle, his fourth overall.
He won for the second time since the PGA Tour returned to golf after the COVID-19 break in June. He started with a playoff victory over Colonial, where half a dozen players still had a chance to win in the final hour.
Daniel Berger makes an eagle putt on the 18th hole. Green to seal his victory on Sunday in Pebble Beach. AP Photo/Erik Risberg
That’s all right.
Spieth went head-to-head. He started 2 strokes behind and was 3 strokes behind after 6 holes, giving the entire course to Pebble Beach. He finished with two birdies for 70 and a third with Patrick Cantlay (68), who made all his putts at the Pebble on Thursday. Cantlay hit 10 birdies in his first round and set the course record with a 62. He did seven birds and an eagle in two weekends.
Berger saw the rankings at the exit of the 18. Greens and knew he was in the lead. He figured it would be with Nate Lashley, not knowing what would happen on the 16th.
Lashley, playing with Spieth in the final group, nearly cut his corner on 11 for a birdie that put him 16 under and gave him a one-shot lead. With three holes to go, he was tied with Berger when Lashley hit the 16th. The hole made a long shot. Lashley flew to 12 feet, missed a putt and then missed his next two 3-foot putts.
It gave him a triple bogey that he couldn’t get over. Lashley pushed the bottom of the putter into the green and walked away without talking to the media.
McNeely, who played at Stanford and once lived in a house near 15th street. Greens resident at Pebble Beach, quietly made five birdies on his final eight holes.
I had adrenaline in my blood and sensations I hadn’t felt on the golf course in a long time. I tried to stop it and give myself a chance, Mr. McNeely said.
The latter was 18 when his eagle putt came to a halt just inches from the cup, giving him a 66 and a head-to-head duel that didn’t last long. Berger was in the group behind him, and he played the hole to perfection.
I wanted to win a golf tournament. I didn’t want to lose her again, Mr. Berger said. I just wanted to go out there and try to make the best shot I could, and I didn’t want to be conservative on Wood 3.
The eagle putt was broken quickly and in both directions, and Berger just wanted a stress-free birdie on two holes. The fact that he fell in love with the eagle was a bonus he was only too happy to accept.
Spieth finished in the top four for the second week in a row, a strong sign that his game is coming back from a drought dating back to his win at the 2017 Royal Birkdale Open.
He hit a hybrid out of the rough to have a good chance at an eagle on the second hole and narrowly missed it. Then he took an unfortunate position in the fairway 3 bunker. His shot was low and well over the green, so Spieth was worried he would be eliminated. He made a scarecrow. He also made a bogey from the bunker on the par-3 fifth, and on the par-5 sixth he had to play a side bunker on the fairway, which made a birdie impossible.
Actually, only the first six holes were really bad. And you can score points here, Spieth said. I had to be paired with six others, and I was a year older. And that was really the difference.
The course, which has only three players in the world’s top 20, saw one of them win – Berger, who was outside the world’s top 100 when he returned to golf in June while trying to recover from a wrist injury.
I think I really consolidated my position as a better golfer today and I have to keep doing what I’m doing, Mr. Berger said. And I feel there is no limit to what I can achieve.