(Reuters) – Daniel Berger emerged from a tightly-bunched leaderboard to win the PGA Tour’s first tournament back after a three-month COVID-19 break with a playoff victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday.
Berger, who needed a birdie on the final hole of his regulation round to make the playoff, sealed the win on the first extra hole with a rock-solid par moments before fellow American Collin Morikawa watched his putt from in close cruelly lip out.
When Berger sealed the win there was a brief handshake and hug with his caddie but no roars to be heard since Colonial Country Club was closed all week to the general public to help prevent spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I grinded so hard the last two months to be in this position and I am just so thankful that all the hard work paid off,” said Berger, who had top-10 finishes in his three starts before the PGA Tour halted action in mid-March.
Berger, who began the action-packed day two shots off overnight leader Xander Schauffele, carded a four-under-par 66 to reach 15 under for the week.
The leaderboard at the start of the final round featured many of the game’s best players and the action began with 13 golfers within three shots of Schauffele.
Berger made his move early with three birdies over his first eight holes before a lone bogey at the par-four ninth where his approach shot found a greenside bunker. Yet Berger added birdies at two of his last five holes to reach the playoff.
Schauffele (69) missed the playoff by one stroke after his par putt from two feet at the 17th also lipped out.
Among the others who finished one shot back of the playoff was Britain’s Justin Rose (66) and Bryson DeChambeau (66).
Three-times major champion Jordan Spieth started the final round one shot off the lead but hit just 5 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation en route to a one-over-par 71 that left him in a tie for 10th place.
Despite not managing to snap a nearly three-year victory drought, Spieth took comfort in the state of his game after a lengthy layoff.
“I’m making those putts from mid to long range and I’m driving the ball in good position,” said Spieth. “So it’s really just cleaning up the wedges and stuff that I’m normally really sharp with that certainly had a bit of rust on it.”
World number one Rory McIlroy began the day three shots off the lead but struggled over the front nine en route to a four-over-par 74 that left him nine shots adrift and in a share of 32nd place.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis