A feature by Joshua Mason
January 19, 2016: Whose year will it be in 2016? Plenty of spectators will follow Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy around the courses of the PGA tour this year, but will they be missing out on something else? Golf is a game which has always focused heavily on a select few. But with the descent of Tiger Woods and the formidable ascent of Rory, Spieth and Jason Day, golf is in the midst of heralding a new generation of players.
There is plenty of young talent coming through and fans would do well to keep their antennae up to see where the next big star might emerge from. So what better place to start then than last year’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ Daniel Berger. He performed well beyond expectations last season and could be a real star to watch out for in 2016. Berger was in Hawaii last week, where he finished T42 with an overall score of 9-under 271 (67-69-67-68).
Berger was voted by his colleagues as Rookie of the Year for 2015 and after finishing runner up on two occasions will be looking to take the next step in 2016 and get his first tour win. Berger and his coach Jeff Lieshmann will have plans in place to make sure that they can take that next step.
He has gained access to all majors this year, and will be looking to stamp his authority as a full pro rather than a rookie this time. With a year’s worth of experience on tour Berger has learnt many things that the amateur ranks can’t teach you.
Berger will know the courses he likes and doesn’t like. Then he can pick and choose them for his schedule to maximise his opportunity for a win. In Berger’s case, this will be ‘Target’ courses, as his short orthodox swing makes him highly accurate striking into the green.
The excitement surrounding Berger was borne out of his performances in 2015. The youngster from Florida took part in 31 events and made the cut in 17 of them. At the Honda Classic Berger hauled himself back from 9 shots off the pace on the final day to enter a playoff. Unfortunately for him his opponent was Padraig Harrington and the seasoned pro was able to fend this young Floridian to snatch the title.
An incredible Albatross/Double Eagle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was also a highlight that flagged him up to spectators and players alike. Berger’s bank account certainly swelled last season too, securing $3m in his debut season, not bad at all.
Berger does have sporting pedigree in his veins. He is the son of former world No.7 tennis player Jay Berger who moved to Miami to coach. Daniel grew up in the suburb of Jupiter and benefitted from his father’s contacts after getting a job in a club thanks to a certain Ivan Lendl!
Berger went to Florida State University and left after his sophomore year to join the Web.com tour for a single season. After just one year he qualified for the PGA.
There is no doubt that column space and eyeballs will be zoning in on the big names as usual. But it might be worth your time to keep an eye out for emerging talent – and Berger is right up there among the talented flock that could upset the apple cart of the fancied boys in 2016.