The PGA Tour returned to action in a big way this past week, ending a three-month hiatus with a dramatic and entertaining event at Colonial. From Daniel Berger's breakthrough, to Bryson DeChambeau's weight gain, to Jordan Spieth's dizzying ups and downs, we break it all down in this week's edition of Monday Scramble:
1. After more than three months on hiatus, the PGA Tour resumed at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
TAKEAWAY: Given that he had several weeks to think about how the sport's return might go, it's hard to envision a better scenario for Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Consider:
• A loaded field showed up to Colonial, highlighted by the top five players in the world.
• COVID-19 tests conducted early in the week were 100 percent negative for both players and caddies in Fort Worth (although it's worth noting that one player and three caddies did test positive on the Korn Ferry Tour).
• The focus very quickly shifted back to golf, with many of the Tour's biggest names jostling for position, creating a highly-anticipated final round where more than a dozen players began the day within three shots of the lead.
• The final round was action-packed, even if no fans were there to witness it, with a number of challengers giving way to a sudden-death playoff as the tournament came down to a pair of gravity-bending lip-outs.
The road back to normalcy, both for the Tour and for sports in general, remains arduous and lengthy. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be further fleshed out in the coming weeks, as the Tour's traveling "bubble" heads around the country. But for at least one week, with the sport's product on the main stage, things went about as well as could be imagined.
2. Consistent performance finally paid off for Daniel Berger, who netted his first Tour win in three years.
TAKEAWAY: The 2017 Travelers Championship is remembered for Spieth's dramatic bunker hole-out to win a playoff. What's less memorable is that his overtime victory came against Berger, who would reach 18th in the world as a result, but has largely been on the slide since.
Berger made the Presidents Cup team that year and was on many short lists of promising prospects, having bagged a pair of Tour titles before his 25th birthday. But a 2018 wrist injury slowed him considerably, and he arrived this week in Fort Worth ranked 107th in the world.
The coronavirus hiatus came at an especially inconvenient time for Berger, who finished T-9 or better in each of his three starts before The Players was canceled. But he didn't acquire any rust in the interim three months, and given another sniff at contention he rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to take the clubhouse lead and then won with a par on the first playoff hole.
Berger has now gone 28 straight rounds of par or better, a stretch that dates back to the Houston Open in October and marks the longest such active streak on Tour. Much has transpired in the game since Berger went back-to-back in Memphis in 2016 and 2017, but Sunday's performance showed that he still has plenty of firepower as he looks to return to the game's upper echelon.
3. While many snickered at Bryson DeChambeau's beefy new look, he let his game do the talking in a big way.
TAKEAWAY: There were plenty of chuckles early in the week as cameras got their first glimpse of a post-quarantine DeChambeau, who also sent out a ... creative video showing all the work he put into adding muscle during the Tour's unexpected hiatus. He told reporters he had packed on another 20 pounds in three months, putting his weight around 240 pounds after being listed in the Tour's media guide at 205.
But no one was laughing once DeChambeau put his 5.5-degree driver into play at Colonial, launching missiles off the tee and taking angles never before seen on one of the Tour's most historic layouts.
DeChambeau has always done things his way, from single-length irons to a brief flirtation with side-saddled putting, and a detailed and philosophical approach to the swing. His latest project, to pack on pounds in order to increase ball and swing speed, certainly defied convention. But, it's also kind of working.
DeChambeau led the field in driving distance, and the rest of his game didn't suffer from the extra weight on his frame. While a closing birdie putt grazed the edge, he still carded three rounds of 66 or better en route to a T-3 finish on a course where he had historically struggled. And he did so while hitting eight drives of 353 yards or longer.
As fellow Tour pro Roberto Castro put it, DeChambeau collected a range of trophies at the amateur and professional levels, "35 yards ago."
"If he doesn't get significantly worse at another part of the game, or get hurt," Castro wrote, "look out."
4. Making another start on one of his favorite tracks, Jordan Spieth reaffirmed he's a must-watch player when contending.
TAKEAWAY: Spieth is many things, but he's not boring. The roller-coaster ride that was his stint at Colonial took off with a back-nine 30 on Thursday, and by Friday morning he was atop the leaderboard. But the dichotomy of the Golden Child was revealed a short time later when he four-putted for double bogey, including a pair of misses from inside 3 feet.
There were miraculous scrambles, and there were chunked wedges. There was a grind of a range session with caddie Michael Greller, sprayed drives, birdie runs and mysterious mis-fires. And with no galleries around to create white noise, Spieth's tumultuous inner monologue was on full display.
In search of his first win in nearly three years, Spieth finished T-10. There's no denying that Colonial is one of Spieth's happiest hunting grounds, a place where he now has a win and two runner-ups among six top-10 finishes in eight starts.
Last year's T-8 finish seemed to signal a turnaround, and it instead served as a high water mark on a dismal campaign. Time will tell if his auspicious return to competition will have more staying power this time around.
FIVE PLAYERS WHO ARE EAGER TO REBOUND ...
• Collin Morikawa: Career win No. 2 wasn't to be, as Morikawa missed a pair of short putts over the final two holes at Colonial. His made cuts streak since turning pro has now reached 22 events, and his head-turning irons continue to shine on iconic venues like Hogan's Alley. It won't be long before the 23-year-old gets another chance to stand over a putt to win.
• Xander Schauffele: Schauffele's frustrations continued Sunday, as his mark with at least a share of the 54-hole lead dropped to 0-for-4 after his record scratch of a lip-out on the 17th green. Schauffele has won four times on Tour, all in come-from-behind fashion, and he made a pair of timely putts before his oft-replayed horseshoe. But between the playoff loss at Kapalua and Sunday's near-miss, he's overdue for a win.
• Rory McIlroy: McIlroy was one of the few big names who failed to factor Sunday in Fort Worth, bogeying the opening hole en route to an outward 41. After starting the final round just three shots off the lead, McIlroy fell to T-32 after a closing 74. It was his first time outside the top 5 since October, and his worst worldwide finish since a missed cut at Royal Portrush.
• Jon Rahm: None of the top three players in the world cracked the top 30 at Colonial, but Rahm was the only one who didn't play the weekend. Rahm wasn't especially off, but he only made five birdies in 36 holes. It was his first missed cut on the PGA Tour since ... the last time he played Colonial, 13 months ago.
• Rickie Fowler: Fowler was the only mic'd up player during competition, but he dug an early hole for himself with an opening 73. Better play in Round 2 wasn't enough to make the cut, as Fowler and his audio system both slammed the trunk.
THIS WEEK'S AWARD WINNERS ...
The Wait Continues: Tiger Woods. Woods sent social media spinning with the whereabouts of his yacht, Privacy, which headed north to Georgia early last week. That put him within shouting distance of this week's RBC Heritage, where he could theoretically social distance on his boat while making his first appearance at Harbour Town since 1999. Instead, the entry deadline came and went without a peep from the reigning Masters champ. The Memorial still feels like the place where we'll see him next.
Heartbreaking Tale: Camilo Villegas. The Colombian hasn't been seen much in the last couple years, but he resurfaced at last week's Korn Ferry Challenge and told reporters about his daughter Mia's health struggles, as the 20-month old continues to battle brain and spinal tumors. Villegas has won four times on the PGA Tour and reached as high as No. 7 in the world in 2008. With his head shaved in solidarity with his daughter who remains in the midst of chemotherapy, Villegas finished T-33 in Ponte Vedra Beach and will be an easy player to root for in the coming weeks.
Captain in Command: Steve Stricker. Ryder Cup officials announced last week that Stricker will have six picks at his disposal this year, two more than his original allotment of four selections, to go with eight automatic qualifiers. Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods were suddenly on the outside looking for qualification, though both seem like logical picks in a few months' time. Stricker now has more control over his roster than any of his American predecessors, and the rule change seemed to signal that the biennial matches remain on track to be played in September, regardless of how many fans may be able to attend at Whistling Straits.
Not Turning Back: Justin Rose. Two years after a clinical victory at Colonial, Rose challenged once again before coming up one shot short. The Englishman's T-3 finish came in his first start since he officially split from Honma, and his performance with a makeshift bag comes in stark contrast to an ice-cold start to the 2020 season. Yes, it's only one week, but Rose seems content with his decision to shake up the bag.
Playing for a Bigger Cause: Harold Varner III and Joseph Bramlett. With nationwide protests unfolding over issues of race, two of only four players with both Tour status and African-American heritage shined brightly. Varner received deserved kudos early in the week for his heartfelt take on the issues surrounding George Floyd's death, then went out and grabbed a share of the opening-round lead en route to a T-19 finish. Bramlett didn't qualify for Colonial, but instead went to the Korn Ferry event and finished T-2 after four straight rounds in the 60s.
Win's a win: Luke List. Like Bramlett, List is fully exempt on the PGA Tour this season but didn't have enough status to earn an invite to Colonial. Instead he resumed his season at the Korn Ferry Challenge, where he earned his first win since 2012. List notably lost a playoff to Thomas at the 2018 Honda Classic, but he hadn't cracked the top 10 since the PGA Championship at Bethpage. Now he'll head back to the PGA Tour with a trophy and a little extra momentum.
Half a Century: Phil Mickelson (a day early). Mickelson turns 50 on Tuesday, marking a milestone for a player who has been one of the most popular on Tour for nearly three decades. Lefty spoke with optimism in his return to work at Colonial, but he left town with his third straight missed cut and will now have a chance to celebrate this week at home. Perhaps a celebratory cup of proprietary coffee is called for.