It’s no secret what the majority of golf fans were cheering for today at Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth completing his comeback. Daniel Berger, who Spieth famously dispatched in a playoff at the 2017 Travelers Championship, was not interested in such fairytales.
Here are four takeaways from the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Daniel Berger has all kinds of guts
After his stunning reversal of fortune on the final three holes of the third round, it was fair to wonder if Berger, at least in this tournament, was cooked. To double-bogey the 54th hole 20 minutes after Spieth had holed his second shot on a par 4 – suffering a body blow from the same guy who ripped his heart out at the 2017 Travelers – would simply be too much to overcome. In reality, it may have been a blessing, because there is nothing Berger loves more than coming from behind to win. He did it again today at Pebble Beach, closing with a seven-under 65 that included a door-slamming eagle on the 72nd hole. After starting the day two shots behind Spieth, he wound up finishing three clear of him. Major guts.
His second eagle of the day.
His fourth eagle of the tournament.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 14, 2021
Berger now has four wins on the PGA Tour, and his final rounds in those victories were: 67-66-66-65. In that Travelers Championship he lost to Spieth in a playoff, he also shot a 67. The American is not scared of the Sunday heat, which will serve him well at the Ryder Cup, should he make the team. He entered the week 12th in the US team standings, but this victory makes him all but a lock.
We’d like a lot more of Maverick McNealy, please and thanks
Prior to this week, the former No.1-ranked amateur in the world had been in the mix a handful of times in his young PGA Tour career, and almost always because his putter kept him in it. This week, though, we saw the full McNealy package, which included one of the cockiest, sauciest club twirls in club-twirl history in the 72nd fairway. He didn’t make the eagle putt, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway (well, it would have if not for that ridiculous penalty in round three).
If you know McNealy’s backstory, you’re well aware he could quit the game tomorrow and do just fine in life. He doesn’t need pro golf, and, let’s be honest, pro golf doesn’t need him either. But after today’s saucy performance, we’ve found ourselves clamoring for more Mav. What a name. What a talent. He’s another one of these young studs who is close to “putting it all together”, as they say, and the more of those guys the merrier.
Does Jordan Spieth have the Sunday scaries?
In fairness to Jordan, that he’s contended in back-to-back weeks is solid proof that he’s returning to his old self. This is a great thing. The sport is better with Jordan consistently in it. We are all cheering for this to continue. But… are we in the trust tree? OK, good. The Sunday swoon trend is very real.
You may be asking, how can it be a trend if he’s just starting to contend again? Well, if you look at the few times he has been in contention since 2017, the Sunday numbers are not good save for that closing 64 at Augusta in 2018. Since then though, it’s been SundayScariesVille.
With the 54-hole lead at Carnoustie in 2018 he shot 76 on Sunday. At Colonial in 2019, he began the final round just two off the lead, and he wound up finishing T-8 after a two-over 72. The next week at Muirfield Village he shot a one-over 73 on Sunday after starting the day just four behind. In the first post-resumption event at Colonial, Spieth was one shot off Xander Schauffele’s 54-hole lead. He posted a one-over 71 to tie for 10th.
Jordan Spieth is the first player in 8 years to hold a share of the 54-hole lead in back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour and not win either tournament. Daniel Summerhays did it in 2013 at the John Deere and Sanderson Farms.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) February 15, 2021
And now he has last week and this week to add to that not-so-great collection. At last weekend’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, with a share of the 54-hole lead, he finished with a one-over 72. This week, he led by two at the beginning of the final round, and ended up finishing three behind. He did shoot a two-under 70, which you could argue is progress. But he knows better than anyone that that usually doesn’t get it done unless you’re up by seven or eight on Saturday evening. We should urge the same patience he is exercising in this comeback process, but these Sunday stumbles have become the norm since Royal Birkdale.
That Nate Lashley debacle on 16 was NSFW
Nate Lashley’s victory at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic was one of the great feel-good stories in recent memory. Part 2 of that story seemed to be playing out today at Pebble Beach, where Lashley was in full control for 15 holes. Then came the 16th green, where this utter debacle took place:
4 putts from 13 feet.
Nate Lashley was tied for the lead before this triple bogey. pic.twitter.com/kGR3YQbUzG
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 14, 2021
As if the four-jack wasn’t ugly enough, Lashley slammed his putter down on the green as he walked off, which the clip above conveniently cuts out. Letting out frustration is fine, so long as you don’t damage the golf course (cough, Sergio, cough). Not the best look for Lashley, but hopefully he learns from it. He’s too nice a guy to have his character called into question over one brief lapse in judgement. By the way, we do not condone damaging the putting surface, but that pin position was downright cruel. Lashley was within his rights to helicopter his putter into the ocean.