Daniel Berger is back on a PGA Tour leaderboard, but more importantly for him he’s back to feeling healthy.
Less than two years ago Berger was ranked inside the top 20 in the world and en route to his Presidents Cup debut. But he began this week’s RBC Heritage ranked No. 81 in the world, having broken a streak of nine straight major starts when he failed to qualify for last week’s Masters.
A big reason for Berger’s regression was a finger injury that sidelined him for more than four months. The 26-year-old made his last start of 2018 at TPC Boston over Labor Day, not returning to competition until the Desert Classic in January where he tied for 12th. He missed his next two cuts but finally felt his game make a turn for the better at the Puerto Rico Open, where he tied for second while most of the game’s biggest names were playing a WGC event in Mexico.
“Finally got a full week of practice where I actually got to play golf every day. That’s the biggest difference,” Berger told reporters after a 66 Thursday. “When you’re going to a golf tournament and you’ve played one round of golf in two weeks, you don’t feel very good. To be able to put the work in and get rewarded, it makes me feel like I’m ready to go when I get out here.”
Berger built upon that momentum at Harbour Town, where he made six birdies against a single bogey to join a group of players at 5 under, one shot behind leader Shane Lowry. Berger hasn’t played this event since 2015, but he found 12 of 18 greens in regulation during the opening round while picking up nearly three shots against the field on the greens.
While Berger is enthused about his early position, the biggest takeaway might be his clean bill of health after struggling to maintain it for the past several months.
“It’s just nice to be playing pain-free. That’s something I took for granted,” Berger said. “To be able to go out there, play golf, feel good, that’s really nice.”