Stev's in-play pick, Daniel Berger, has won the Charles Schwab Challenge and our man looks back on his triumph with his traditional Monday reflections piece here...
“It was nice to see more of the course than usual and it was also good to see poor shots punished. The rough was harder to play from as it wasn’t trampled down and the absence of spectator seating meant a missed green was often penalised more than usual.”
Exactly 14 weeks after Tyrrell Hatton won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the last completed event on the PGA Tour, Daniel Berger has won the first event back after the COVID-19 outbreak - the Charles Schwab Challenge.
This was Berger's third PGA Tour victory and his third victory in the second week of June. He won the St Jude Classic (now the WGC- FedEx St Jude Invitational) on June 12, 2016, before successfully defending the tournament on June 11, 2017. Yesterday's win was one for biorhythm theory fans!
Berger had lost his way over the last few seasons but he'd found form prior to the break - finishing tied for ninth, fifth and fourth in his last three PGA Tour starts. With perceived logic suggesting pre-break form wouldn't hold, Berger went off at around 120.0119/1 - a price that looks huge with hindsight - but his victory appeared unlikely almost all week long.
Pre-event 42.041/1 chance, Xander Schauffele, who had begun the final round with a one-shot lead, looked the most likely winner after he'd birdied the par five 11th. He was matched at a low of 1.910/11 but after finding a bunker off the tee on 15, he found the water with his approach shot and seemed to be out of the equation.
The beefed-up, big-hitting, Bryson DeChambeau, came with a bold bid on the back-nine and he hit a low of 2.6613/8 before bogeying the 17th and Collin Morikawa, a pre-event 48.047/1 chance, was matched at just 1.42/5 as he looked far and away the most likely winner but a cold putter ended up costing him his chance.
Berger, who had been on the fringes of contention all week long, birdied the 72nd hole to post 15-under-par before Morikawa missed from inside six feet on 18 to post -16 and Schauffele holed two bombs on the 1th and 16th greens to tie the pair. Having not made a putt outside 25 feet all week long (0/15) he drained a bogey putt on 15 from 31 feet and a birdie from just outside 25 feet on 16.
Tied for the lead with Morikawa and Berger, who were both in the clubhouse by now, Schauffele briefly touched odds-on again when he found the 17th green in regulation but having made 51 of 51 putts inside five feet throughout the week, and having missed his birdie putt from 21 feet, this happened from three feet for par.
Unbelievable.? PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 14, 2020
Co-leader Xander Schauffele's ball lips out on the 17th hole.
He makes bogey to fall 1 back with 1 to play.
Golf is heartbreaking. pic.twitter.com/1X90JNiQpk
Schauffele then left his birdie putt short on 18 and Berger and Morikawa headed to the 17th tee for extra time. The market made Morikawa the marginal favourite but after a poor drive, Berger appeared to have the upper hand. Morikawa recovered well though and after a lovely little chip from off the green with his third, we looked highly likely to head to 18 for another hole but after Berger had tapped in for his par four, this happened to poor Morikawa.
None of my pre-event picks figured strongly - although 170.0169/1 chance, Corey Conners, hung around until a poor final round yesterday - but both of my in-play picks did my proud.
Justin Rose, backed after the opening round, missed out on the playoff by a solitary stroke and as highlighted in the in-Play Blog, my only other in-play pick was Berger at halfway at 40.039/1. I layed Berger back at 2.111/10 before the playoff to ensure a profitable restart but I've no regrets and it's great to hit the ground running.
What Have We Learned This Week?
The big difference post-break was the absence of spectators and it was a little strange not hearing any crowd reactions on what transpired to be an exciting final day's play but overall, not having fans present didn't have too much of a detrimental effect.
It was nice to see more of the course than usual and it was also good to see poor shots punished. The rough was harder to play from as it wasn't trampled down and the absence of spectator seating meant a missed green was often penalised more than usual.
More than half responding to the below poll didn't miss the crowds and one huge positive was the much faster pace of play.
I'm going to ask again now we've experienced a Sunday finish with no fans present? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) June 14, 2020
Beefed-up Bryson One to Follow
Morikawa remains one to stick with around venues where accuracy counts for plenty but his putting is still a concern. He claimed this week to have found something with his putting at the Players Championship (which was abandoned after round one) but when it came to the crunch, he missed a very makeable putt at 18 for the win before his missed par putt at the first extra hole. Despite the improved putting stats, it looks as if the flatstick is still his Achilles heel.
Having come up a shot shy, Xander is now 0 from four when leading through 54 holes on the PGA Tour but I'd still regard him as solid in-contention. Yet again, he didn't do an awful lot wrong and it's only a matter of time before he wins from the front but the big talking point this week was the beefed-up Bryson DeChambeau.
The world number 12 spent his time off bulking up in order to find yet more length off the tee and it was incredible to watch him repeatedly whack it 340 yards off the tee. It caused the usual concerns about length being so detrimental to the game but I'm not sure we need to worry just yet.
There's no doubt that extra yardage is an advantage, and more so around certain tracks, but I spent time looking through the stats for the season so far in the downtime and what I found was quite surprising. Prior to the break, the average Driving Distance ranking of the 11 PGA Tour winners was 31.72 and the average Driving Accuracy ranking was 27.09.
Admittedly, we were playing at a venue were accuracy is of far more importance than power but yet again, the winner ranked higher for DA than they did for DD - 17th and 23rd. Putting is far and away the most important aspect week after week and that was once again the difference. Bryson ranked number one for GIR, Berger ranked fourth, but the winner had a Putting Average ranking of eighth, whereas DeChambeau ranked 39th. The old adage of drive for show and putt for dough isn't quite dead yet it seems.
Having said all that, once Bryson gets to a course where there's a premium on length, given how well the rest of his game is too, he's going to be well worth following.
The PGA Tour moves east from Texas to South Carolina this week when we take in Hilton head for the RBC Heritage. I'll be back this evening or tomorrow with my preview.
*You can follow me on Twitter here@SteveThePunter