Daniel Berger hoping to grab Ryder Cup spot, connect legacies

By Chip Malafronte
Published on
Daniel Berger hoping to grab Ryder Cup spot, connect legacies

CROMWELL -- Daniel Berger never seriously considered following in the footsteps of his father, Jay, once the seventh-ranked tennis player in the world.

The golf bug hit Daniel at age 11 and he never looked back. Still, he'd love nothing more than to pay tribute to his father by connecting their legacies.

"My dad played in the Davis Cup, which is tennis' equivalent of the Ryder Cup," Berger said after his round of 62 on Saturday at the Travelers Championship. "So I think that would be pretty cool to have father and son play Davis Cup and Ryder Cup."

It could happen this fall.

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Berger, at minus-15, holds a three-shot lead heading into today's final round at the TPC River Highlands. Should he hang on for his second PGA Tour victory of the year, it could bump him into contention for a slot. (He was 18th in the Ryder Cup standings entering the weekend; the top eight get automatic spots with an addition four wildcards.)

Davis Love III -- whom Berger, 23, referred to as "Captain Love" -- has been in recent contact. Berger says he's ensured Love that recent injuries are in check and he's ready to compete.

"I want to keep him informed on where I'm at," Berger said. "Like, listen, I'm not done for the year. I'm just making sure that when I come back, I'm 100 percent. And that's my biggest goal this year. I want to play on the Ryder Cup team."

Jay Berger captured three ATP singles titles and a doubles crown during his brief time on the tour. He'd beaten some of the sport's all-time greats -- Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander -- and was ranked seventh in April 1990. Chronic knee problems ended his career at age 25, two years before Daniel was born.

Though Jay remained close to tennis in retirement -- he spent time as a coach at the University of Miami and is now the head of men's tennis for the USTA -- Daniel, an excellent tennis player himself, knew it wasn't his true passion.

"I just loved golf from the beginning," he said.

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His future looks bright. Berger has made 19 of 22 cuts this year, his second as a full-time member on the PGA circuit, and is ranked 40th in the world. He followed up a 2015 campaign in which he was named the tour's rookie of the year with a 10th-place finish at the Masters, three other top 10s and his first victory.

Still, the shoulder injury suffered in June garnered a bit more national attention than it should have and taken some focus from his play. That's because of one controversial swing on July 3 at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron. He teed off on the first hole, which guaranteed him a $50,500 last-place check, and then immediately retreated to the clubhouse to withdraw.

Since there are no cuts at World Golf Championship events, everyone entered is guaranteed four rounds and money. Had Berger withdrawn without taking a shot, that money would have been eligible for charitable donation.

It was a mild hullabaloo at best, igniting a few hot takes about a perceived lack of integrity. But it was attention he certainly could have done without, if only because it drew awareness to his health and away from another strong season.

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Berger had six top 10 finishes and earned over $3 million in prize money as a rookie. This spring he captured his first title at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. In the process of that historic win, he injured a shoulder, forcing him from the field at the British Open and lingers into late summer.

Playing injured is a new experience, but Berger, who'd never played through pain before, understands it comes with the territory on the tour's often grueling schedule.

If Saturday is any indication, Berger can handle discomfort well. His round of 62 represents his lowest PGA score. A 30 on the back nine provides plenty of wiggle room between his next closest competitors, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Russell Knox and Russell Henley, all at 12-under.

"Jerry Kelly told me in his 600 starts, more than half of them he was feeling bad," Berger said. "I guess you've got to learn to play hurt a little bit."

This article was written by Chip Malafronte from New Haven Register, Conn. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.