Golf sometimes gets touted as an old man’s sport, yet in recent years it has shaken that image with some young, exciting players making an impact on the sport. Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy will likely be making all the headlines in 2016, but too many times golf fans idly follow just a few stars in a large field. Upcoming players are not celebrated like they are in other sports, however, this year may change that. Daniel Berger, who won Rookie of the Year, is hoping that all the focus on older pros will allow him to flourish this year under the radar, perhaps a few more scandals about Tiger and no one will notice him. 2016 should be a big year for the young Floridian, and he is one new Tour player fans should be watching.
Daniel is the son of Jay Berger, who himself was a world class athlete excelling in tennis, reaching as high as number 7 in the world at one point. Growing up in Florida Daniel soon found out that golf was his sport and not tennis. Tennis did give him something though, as his father’s friendship with one Ivan Lendl helped the 14-year-old Daniel Berger land a job at a prestigious club’s driving range. In the same year the teenager beat Steve Marino in a round, which really let the young golfer dream of a career in the pro ranks. Berger went on to play golf at Florida State University, and after much success in college, left after his sophomore year to turn pro. One season in the Web.com tour was swiftly followed by his debut season on the PGA tour, and what a year it was.
Berger made 17 out of 31 cuts and with six top ten positions, two of them being second, he has shown even at this early stage that he can play with the big boys. His biggest performance was at the Honda Classic, where after making up a 9 stroke deficit to the leader on the final day he just lost out in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. His earnings for his rookie year was $3 million (no meagre feat) and he currently sits 53rd in the world rankings. The young American also recorded an incredible double eagle at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The seasons successes have given access to Berger to all Majors in 2016 including Augusta, which is his dream course to play.
The planning for this year is already in full effect with swing coach Jeff Lieshmann making sure he stays on track. With a year as good as 2015, Berger will be looking to make the next logical step – a win on tour. Bookmakers are looking to him to have a stellar season and his years’ experience on the PGA Tour should put him in good position to achieve that goal. He has gained vital knowledge of the types of courses he likes and the ones to avoid on the tour. With the spotlight on others, it will give him space to grow without the added pressure, unless of course he performs well in the Majors. It is well in his capabilities to impress in majors, his orthodox swing and punchy backswing gives Berger great accuracy pitching onto the green.
I will leave the final words to Berger himself and you can wait and see if the man is a prophet or another promising flop, “I just think this year I’m going to be way more prepared than I was last year, just knowing what I know now. I think I’m better at golf now than I was last year. I hope next year I’m better than I am this year and just keep getting better every year.”
So while most will be watching McIlroy and Spieth battle I will be looking the other way and keeping an eye on Daniel Berger, and I suggest you do the same.