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Daniel Berger adds to Pebble Beach lore

Daniel Berger wins 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am RLC12867_2021021460037102.jpg
Daniel Berger punctuates a 30½-foot eagle putt to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday in Pebble Beach, Calif.

30½-foot eagle putt on final hole caps dramatic victory at Pebble Beach as Jordan Spieth sees his winless streak continue

There’s a lot of history at Pebble Beach Golf Links, the iconic seaside layout that has hosted the PGA Tour since the late 1940s.

The roster of champions includes names such as Hogan, Nelson, Casper, Nicklaus, Watson, Woods and so many others. Daniel Berger doesn’t rate among such golf luminaries so soon in his career, but his finish Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am deserves a page in Pebble Beach lore.

Tied for the lead on the 72nd hole, Berger striped a 276-yard tee shot down the right side of the picturesque dogleg-left par 5, then rifled a 253-yard 3-wood into the heart of the green, 30½ feet right of the hole. Berger sank the putt for his second eagle of the day, a 7-under 65 and an 18-under 270 total. It capped a two-stroke victory after he had started the day two strokes behind Jordan Spieth, the 54-hole leader (scores).

Spieth failed to convert his second consecutive lead entering the final round and still is searching for his first victory since winning the 2017 British Open.

“I knew it was going to be a tight finish,” Berger said, “and I just stepped up there and hit a great drive and hit maybe the best 3-wood I've ever hit in my life. The putt was just kind of icing on the cake. I was really looking to two-putt, but it was a great feeling when it went in. It's so hard to win out here.”

Berger, 27, earned his fourth career victory on the PGA Tour. He won last year at Colonial in the Tour’s season restart after a three-month suspension because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve worked so hard in the last 6-7 months to get to where I’m at, so it’s just nice to see the results,” Berger said.

Just last week, fellow Florida State alumnus Brooks Koepka won the Phoenix Open. Berger, who entered the tournament at No. 15 in the world ranking, missed the cut at Phoenix after opening 2021 with top-10 results at the Tournament of Champions (10th) and the Sony Open (T-7).

“I'm just trying to get better in every aspect of my game,” Berger said, “and I feel like I've accomplished that. I've set some really high goals, and I feel like I'm not scared to put in the work. I'm not the most talented guy out here. I don't hit it the farthest, but I'll outwork anybody. So that's my biggest weapon.”

Maverick McNealy, a Stanford alumnus whose father, Scott, the founder of Sun Microsystems has a home off the 16th hole, birdied the 18th to finish runner-up.

“I had a lot of fun,” said McNealy, who grew up in Portola Valley, Calif. “It was great to be back in that position. I executed pretty well coming down the stretch.”

McNealy shot 5-under 31 on the homeward nine for a 6-under 66 and 16-under 272 total. He is looking for his first victory on a major professional tour.

The top four finishers – Berger, 27; McNealy, 25; Patrick Cantlay, 28; and Spieth, 27 – are all in their 20s.

One day earlier, Berger finished Pebble Beach in an entirely different manner. He pumped his tee shot out of bounds at the 18th hole and made double bogey to shoot 72 and leave himself two strokes off Spieth’s pace.

After he holed a 22-foot eagle putt on the par-5 second hole and added a 5-foot birdie at the par-4 third, Berger found himself tied for the lead. Other than a missed green and a bogey at the par-4 eighth, he excelled down the stretch of a tight finish.

“Any time you do anything historical here at Pebble Beach, you know you’ve accomplished something special,” Berger said. “It's a tournament I haven't put on my schedule as many times as I think I should have, and I'll be back here many, many years.”

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