Daniel Berger came from behind to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic, defending his title from 2016 with a bogey-free 66 in the final round. Berger emerged from a bunched leaderboard that at one point saw nine players tied for the lead at 8 under par. Finishing one shot behind Berger was Charl Schwartzel and Whee Kim, while amateur Braden Thornberry, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Billy Horschel, Chez Reavie and Kevin Chappell finished two back in a tie for fourth.
With the win, Berger moves to 1-0 in title defenses and takes another step in his ascension towards superstardom. Don’t let Berger’s unorthodox move at the ball fool you – he is one of the best ballstrikers on Tour and his stellar tee-to-green game earned him the championship. He finished second in strokes gained: off the tee and 12th in strokes gained: approach. The win moves Berger to a career-high 24th in the world rankings and makes him an almost certainty for the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
The NCAA Champion and Ole’ Miss star Braden Thornberry had quite the PGA Tour debut, shooting a Sunday 65 to vault up 28 places into a tie for fourth. Had he been a professional, Thornberry would have earned a hefty $241k, but the soon-to-be junior is still an amateur. The impressive aspect of the youngster’s performance was how he was able to finish so well despite not having his best tee-to-green game. Thornberry finished 57th in strokes gained: off the tee and 49th in strokes gained: approach, the worst in both categories of any player in the top nine.
What I love about Thornberry as a player is his ability to manufacture great scores without his best stuff. He showcased this at last month’s NCAA’s, as he was the only player to shoot four consecutive under-par rounds. Thornberry’s top 10 doesn’t earn him a spot in the Travelers because the top 10 rule applies only professionals, but it likely erased any doubt as to whether or not he would be selected to this fall’s Walker Cup team.
Daniel Berger (-10)
Charl Schwartzel (-9)
Whee Kim (-9)
Billy Horschel (-8)
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-8)
Braden Thornberry (a) (-8)
Chez Reavie (-8)
Kevin Chappell (-8)
Phil Mickelson (-7)
The National Championship
We will be putting together a fun U.S. Open pool this week. The entry forms will be emailed out in a special Tuesday newsletter, along with other preview items.
U.S. Open week is upon us as the world’s best players will head north to Hartford, Wisconsin, to take on Erin Hills. I spent yesterday walking the course; expect to see my extensive thoughts on the venue posted later today and included in Wednesday’s newsletter. While many point to Erin Hills favoring the bombers, I think that the all-around players with a strong strategy will be best served at the brawny par 72.
Last year Stephen Jaeger’s name was put on the map after the Web.com Tour pro fired an opening-round 58 at the Ellie Mae Classic en route to a runaway win. Despite the win, Jaeger failed to earn his PGA Tour card, finishing 28th on the money list. This year, Jaeger will be making his way to the big tour after winning his second event of the 2017 season, the Rust Oleum Championship.
Jaeger was the only player in the field to shoot four rounds under par and his stellar wedge play was a large part of his success at the firm and fast Ivanhoe setup. The win moves Jaeger into the top spot on the money list and one win away from earning a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. This week Jaeger will look to continue his hot play at the U.S. Open after qualifying out of sectionals last Monday. Full results
Former Ohio State star Tee-K Kelly won in landslide fashion on the Latin American Tour, shooting 21-under for the tournament and winning by seven shots over Australian phenom Ryan Ruffels. Kelly was the first wire-to-wire winner of the season and moves to seventh on the money list; the top 10 at the end of the season earn Web.com Tour status for the 2018 season. Tee-K came on our podcast this winter to talk about the start of his professional career. Listen to the podcast here.