Daniel Berger, the South Florida kid playing in just his 12th PGA Tour event, had his chances.
But it was seasoned pro Padraig Harrington who resurrected his career by winning the Honda Classic on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff against Berger on the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa on Monday morning.
“You don’t win that often,” said Harrington, of Dublin, Ireland. “When you do win, make sure you enjoy it. So that’s where I’m at right now.”
Harrington, 43, a winner of 30 professional tournaments and three majors, will be cashing the $1,098,000 winner’s check. He put together rounds of 67-66-71-70 for a 6-under-par 274 total. Berger matched that 274 by shooting 68-71-71-64.
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Berger, 21, said he was disappointed. Then he said he was satisfied. Finally, he said it was going to take some time to figure out his emotions.
For Berger, the thought of what might have been was more important than the money, although his $658,000 payday certainly won’t be rejected.
Berger, who had family and friends down from Jupiter to whoop and cheer him on, said he hopes the Honda experience bodes well for his future.
“I know this won’t be the last chance that I have to win,” Berger said.
The Honda field included 16 of the top 25 players in the world, so Berger rightfully concluded, “I can compete with the best in the world.”
Berger, a lifelong Floridian who was born in Plantation before moving to Jupiter, is the son of well-known ex-tennis professional Jay Berger. However, growing up, golf became Berger’s passion and tennis more of a hobby.
Why golf and not tennis?
“I like the individuality of golf,” Berger said. “I like having all the blame put on me and also all the success on myself.
“In other sports, you need to have someone else, so that was what kind of drew me in.”
Although Harrington has a solid résumé with those three majors, he has been in a battle with his game in recent years.
Before Monday, the last of his PGA Tour victories was the PGA Championship in 2008.
“There’s no doubt there have been low points,” he said, “because in 2008, 2009 I’m in the penthouse. I haven’t quite gotten down to the doghouse, but not far away from it.”
Harrington, who has had putting problems in recent years, including being dreadful on the greens as recently as Sunday, forced a playoff by making a clutch 16-foot putt on the final hole of regulation.
The first playoff hole was on the par-5 No. 18, where both players got on in three and two-putted.
The second and final playoff hole was No. 17, a 190-yard par-3 that almost doomed Harrington some 30 minutes earlier when he hit a 5-iron into the water right of the green and made a double bogey. That necessitated Harrington to make birdie on No. 18 to force the playoff.
This time at the 17th, it was Berger who hit into the water after Harrington put his shot — again using a 5-iron — three feet from the pin.
It was the end of Berger’s hopes and the end of an improbable tournament besieged by horrible weather that tore up the course and shoved the partial final round over into Monday in order to finish up.
For the most part, play was erratic and actually poor.
How bad was some of the golf? Some examples:
▪ Ian Poulter, in the final round, hit five balls — yes, five — in the water. His final-round scorecard included one bogey, two double bogeys and a triple bogey, and he still finished just one stroke behind Berger and Harrington.
▪ Harrington won despite two double bogeys in his final round.
▪ Patrick Reed, the defending World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship champion, was in the lead or tied for the lead for much of the final round. Then, in the final four holes, he had a double bogey and two bogeys to drop out of contention.
▪ Phil Mickelson easily could have made a big move Monday with all the mistakes being made around him. Instead, he joined the faltering crowd. Mickelson started the day 4-under and ended up in a tie for 17th with an even-par 280 as he played 4-over in his final 10 holes.
1. *Padraig Harrington
2. Daniel Berger
T3. Paul Casey
T3. Russell Knox
T3. Ian Poulter
6. Jamie Donaldson
*-Won on second playoff hole