By Sam McPherson
Just 23 years old, Daniel Berger joined the ranks of golfers who can call themselves PGA Tour winners. He cruised to a three-shot victory Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, shooting all four rounds in the 60s. Berger beat a trio of golfers that included Phil Mickelson to claim his first career win and the $1.116 million first-place check.
After finishing 10th in the Masters earlier this spring, perhaps it was only a matter of time before Berger found himself in this position. A round of 64 on Friday put the Florida native in contention for his first win, and Berger’s closing 67 secured the victory with a 13-under par overall score.
Phil Mickelson, always a crowd favorite, and Steve Stricker also posted Sunday 67s to finish in the second-place logjam. Brooks Koepka’s round of 66 enabled him to catch Mickelson and Stricker to also claim part of the runners-up prize money ($462,933 each).
Low rounds were common on Sunday, as Dustin Johnson shot a tournament-low 63 to finish alone in fifth place at 9-under par. Brian Gay, 2009 FedEx St. Jude winner, closed with a 66 in the fourth round to manage an 8-under and sixth place.
However, Berger was the story. The 2015 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year delivered upon that promise as one of only two golfers in the event to shoot all four rounds under par. The other was Brett Stegmaier, who finished tied for ninth at 6-under.
The young winner also overcame a weather delay in the final round, which could have been problematic for an inexperienced golfer trying to hold off veterans like Mickelson and Stricker down the stretch. However, Berger responded well, playing the final 12 holes at 3-under par en route to the win.
Another fan favorite, Colt “Big Gravy” Knost, led the tournament field in driving accuracy this week, hitting 75 percent of the fairways while finishing tied for 18th place at 3-under.
Next On The Tee: U.S. Open
The 116th U.S. Open Championship is here, and the best players in the world will take on the Oakmont Country Club course in Plum, Pennsylvania. Just north of Pittsburgh, Oakmont is hosting its ninth U.S. Open Championship; it was the site of Johnny Miller’s famous closing 63 in 1973, as well as Ángel Cabrera’s 5-over par win in 2007. The purse for the event is $10 million.
At least 12 former champions are expected in the field, including 2015 winner Jordan Spieth and 2011 victor Rory McIlroy — both currently ranked in the world’s top three. Mickelson, a winner of five major titles but infamously a six-time second-place finisher at the U.S. Open, also will be in the field, along with Ernie Els, who won the 1994 U.S. Open on this Oakmont circuit in a three-way playoff.
Four of the last six U.S. Open Championships have been won by non-Americans, and as many as eight former champions of international origin may be in the field this week. Mickelson will be a sentimental favorite, of course, as he turns 46 years old on Thursday. With Father’s Day on Sunday, Mickelson’s family could be front and center for an emotional moment if Lefty finally can break through the grass barrier that has denied him for so long in this event.
Oakmont Country Club was the first U.S. golf course to be designated as a National Historic Landmark, having been designed and laid out in 1903. The club has hosted eight prior U.S. Open Championships. Oakmont was also the setting for 12 other championship events over the years — including the 1922 PGA Championship won by Gene Sarazen, the 1925 U.S. Amateur won by Bobby Jones and the 1951 PGA Championship won by Sam Snead.
U.S. Open Championship winners at Oakmont include Tommy Armour (1927), Ben Hogan (1953) and Jack Nicklaus (1962). With such big names on the championship roll call at Oakmont, and the sport’s best in the field, fans are surely in for another great weekend of golf.
The Oakmont Country Club course plays 7,219 yards long and is a par 70.
Favorites: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth
Players to Watch: Sergio García, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.