This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.
The Charles Schwab Challenge went off without a pandemic-related hitch. That alone makes the PGA Tour's return a rousing success. Throw in a drama-filled tournament with a big-name leaderboard and the week could not have gone any better for Commissioner Jay Monahan and all of golf – and really, for all of sports.
Whether Daniel Berger was considered one of the big names on the leaderboard was debatable at the time. Not anymore, though. Not after Berger took down the strongest field of the season by defeating another rising golfer in Collin Morikawa on the first playoff hole on Sunday at Colonial Country Club.
More on Berger in a minute. But first – and with apologies to NASCAR – the return of big-time sports in the United States.
The PGA Tour was the guinea pig. Of course, that was its own decision to come back first after sports and much of life was shut down for three months. But it seemingly handled the myriad logistics with aplomb. We say "seemingly" because, candidly, we just don't know what tomorrow and the days ahead will bring in terms of potential positive tests and other unknown ramifications. But for now, Monahan and his team have to feel great. And so should CBS Sports and Golf Channel. Unless you really wanted to nit-pick, the broadcasts looked like any other broadcasts. Sure, there were limitations, there were no fans, but that simply was not an option. Come Sunday afternoon, the unfolding drama was so riveting, that's all that mattered. Oh, there were complaints from Golf Twitter – Golf Twitter was complaining? You don't say? – about certain golfers or shots not being shown. Seriously? CBS had like six people on site. Jim Nantz might even have had to make his own coffee (okay, things weren't that dire). Really, the dang sport was back after the longest unscheduled break since World War II. Stop. Your. Whining.
Coming into the week, everything was an unknown, including who would play well and even how fantasy gamers would try to determine whom to back.
Berger, 27, had been on quite a roll when golf shut down, having not shot an over-par round since the ZOZO in October. He finished top-10 at Phoenix, Pebble Beach and the Honda heading into the break. It was his best stretch since missing the last four months of 2018 with a complicated finger/wrist injury. He was still on a major medical last year and even played a Korn Ferry tournament. A winner at Memphis in 2016 and '17 who was once ranked in the top-20 OWGR, Berger had been fighting his way back for more than two years now.
The son of former pro tennis player Jay Berger said that he "worked really hard in the off time" and that he "grinded so hard the last two months." When Morikawa stunningly missed a three-footer for par in the playoff, Berger had his third career win. He's now up to No. 31 in the world. He had tears in his eyes as he spoke to Dottie Pepper right afterward.
(As an aside, did you see the size of that trophy Berger was holding? It's big enough to result in, dare we say, a wrist injury. And didn't he look terrible in that horrid plaid sport jacket? Of course, who wouldn't?)
Lastly, on top of everything else, the win gets Berger into the Masters. But not the next Masters this November, the 2021 Masters next April.
Just one more little component to the weirdness surrounding golf's return.
Harold Varner III
Let's start the Backspin with Varner. What a great story it would have been for him to win this week of all weeks, with Black Lives Matter resonating around the world. After opening with a 63, Varner wound up tied for 19th. That's actually one of his better finishes this season, which has not gone as he would have liked. But it was a joy to watch Varner all week, on and off the course. He may not be among the best players, but this is his fifth straight year with his card and he'll have a sixth next year. His time for a victory may be coming. He's been close. He has won in Australia.
No Spieth bashing this week. Spieth Twitter is one of the most entertaining things in all of social media. He tied for 10th, had a bit of a Sunday fade, but a lot of good happened for him at Colonial. Spieth has been terrible off the tee this season, but he was ranked eighth in the field until his dreaded OB drive on 14 on Sunday. He wound up 23rd in SG off the tee. He was 56th in SG approach – that's a great week for him. He was 90th in putting on the season but led the field this week. Really, Spieth fans have a lot to be happy about heading into Harbour Town.
This one will surely sting for Morikawa, having missed a six-footer on 18 to win in regulation and then the three-footer to continue the playoff. But make no mistake – Morikawa is the real deal, now up to No. 27 in the world. When the Class of '19 emerged last summer, Viktor Hovland got most of the headlines. But Morikawa is clearly better. As you surely know, he's never missed a cut as a pro, now 21 straight.
What can you say after a guy makes a 31-footer for bogey and 25-footer for birdie, then misses a three-footer for par on 17 to miss the playoff by a stroke? That golf evens out in the end? Seriously, Schauffele said a few weeks into the stay-at-home order that he hadn't even picked up a club. Presumably he did at some point, because he led the field in GIR. He now heads to Harbour Town, a similar track mandating accurate iron play.
DeChambeau had missed the cut three times in four visits to Colonial. Chalk one up against course history. DeChambeau's fantastic season continued with a tie for third. He now has four top-5s in a row (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th but no win – that's coming soon). He led the field in driving but was also very accurate. He led the field in SG off the tee. He also led in scrambling. He keeps getting bigger, but with no detriment to his game.
If you haven't already sold your Honma stock … Rose left the little-known company and returned mostly to TaylorMade. It looks like a great move as Rose tied for third, his best showing by far in what had been a disastrous season to date. Suddenly, the outlook on Rose has changed dramatically.
Watson quietly had a great week, shooting a Sunday 65 to zoom into a tie for seventh. It continues a decent season for him, one marked by his best putting ever. He ranked ninth in the field at Colonial and is 16th on the season. If he keeps that up, he's going to get a bunch of top-10s.
Morikawa has the longest cut streak overall. But for this season, it's Gooch, now with 13 in a row after his tie for 43rd at Colonial. In those 13, he has five top-25s, two of which were top-10s. He continues to be priced around $7,000 on DraftKings.
We saw Perez in the Colonial field and did a double-take. You see, he had never played in a PGA Tour event before (he had played in WGCs). The 27-year-old Frenchman, ranked 40th in the world coming in, appears to have committed to playing in the States for the foreseeable future. He's also in the field at Harbour Town. Perez, who played at the University of New Mexico, missed the cut but is definitely someone to keep an eye on. There are other internationals who were at Colonial and will be at Harbour Town – so they too appear to be regular options going forward: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Erik van Rooyen, Jazz Janewattananond and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are others.
Missing the Cut
What a list of big names missing the cut: Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson , Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. So you have to wonder: Was it just because it was a loaded field and big names therefore were bound to miss the cut? Or were these guys not as prepared coming out of the break? We should know a little more next Friday. All of them but Leishman are playing the Heritage.
Korn Ferry Tour
Luke List was at THE PLAYERS Championship when golf shut down. He returned this week, but at the Korn Ferry Challenge – and he won it. List has his PGA Tour card, so why would he play a KF event? (And does Vijay Singh know about this?). For one, he was not in the Colonial field. List, 35, has not had a great season but not terrible either. He wasn't losing his card at the end of the season. He's even in the field at Harbour Town. He's 136th in the world. He's played 157 PGA Tour events but never won. Sometimes it feels good just to win. He won on the KF Tour back in 2012. His caddie told Golf Channel that List worked really hard during the break. Daniel Berger said he worked really hard, too.