PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Minutes after the Honda Classic ended, rookie Daniel Berger admitted that Monday’s events at PGA National had yet to sink in.
Berger began the final round nine shots off the lead but surged up the standings with a 6-under 64. He appeared in line for a victory before Padraig Harrington birdied the 72nd hole to force a playoff, one that the Irishman ultimately won on the second extra hole.
“If you had told me I was going to finish solo second when the week started, I’d probably take it,” he said. “Right now, not as happy as I wish I was.”
Berger entered off a string of four top-25 finishes in five starts this year, and his runner-up essentially locks up his card for next season. That fact provided little solace in the immediate aftermath, however, as Berger would have qualified for both the Masters and the WGC-Cadillac Championship with a victory.
“Obviously I’m disappointed. I mean, I think all of us out here are competitors and we all want to win,” Berger said. “So I think in the next maybe hour or two, it will hit me a little bit more than it is right now.”
Berger was 2 over for the week with the third round winding down Sunday before he holed a bunker shot for birdie on No. 17. He added another chip-in on No. 11 in his final shot before darkness fell at PGA National, and the 21-year-old birdied his final two holes in regulation Monday to set the score to beat after 72 holes.
“I can’t really look at my round and say, ‘Hey, I wish I could have saved a shot here or there,’” he said. “It was kind of like I got all of what I could have gotten out of my round.”
Berger and Harrington both made par on the first extra hole, pushing the playoff to the par-3 17th hole where Berger had made birdie in regulation, while Harrington’s ball had found the water. The roles were reversed in overtime, as Harrington put his shot within 4 feet and Berger’s splashed down short of the green.
“That shot on 17 was kind of a dagger in the heart,” Berger said of Harrington’s approach.
Berger grew up in nearby Jupiter, Fla., and received plenty of crowd support during Monday’s finish. Despite missing out on his first win as a professional, he remains optimistic heading into the balance of his rookie season.
“It’s just a great learning experience,” he said. “I know next time I’ll be way better off than I was this time. This was definitely the biggest moment of my life, if you can imagine two years ago I was playing college golf tournaments. It’s nice to be in this position.”