Lately, Daniel Berger has been a threat to win every time he tees it up.
The Jupiter resident has finished no worse than third in four of the seven PGA Tour events he has played since the re-start, including a playoff victory over eventual PGA champion Collin Morikawa at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Berger was 13th at the PGA and 25th at last week’s BMW Championship.
But here’s a tournament – the biggest tournament of them all – that Berger currently has no chance at winning. The Masters. That’s because Berger isn’t in the field for the rescheduled Masters in mid-November at Augusta National.
That seems ridiculous considering Berger is ranked 13th in the world.
He also is sixth in the FedExCup standings, landing him a spot, along with Morikawa and Webb Simpson, in the penultimate grouping at this week’s Tour Championship that starts Friday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Still, no ride down Magnolia Lane for Berger.
“I’m not sure what else I have to do at this point to get into Augusta,” Berger said at the recent Northern Trust, where he finished third. “I’m a little baffled that I haven’t had more opportunity to at least hear from some of the guys over there.”
Don’t expect a response from those “guys over there,” — the folks who run the Masters. It’s their tournament and they run it however darn well they want.
Masters officials view the Masters in 2½ months the same way as if it were held the second weekend in April. The 96 players who qualified for the season’s first major remain qualified for what the coronavirus pandemic made the season’s final major.
It doesn’t matter if you’re perhaps the hottest player in golf with the exception of Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm or Morikawa. You’re not getting a chance to play in the major most players want to win.
Berger was ranked 106th in the world when he tied for fourth at the Honda Classic at PGA National in March. That sub-par ranking was because he battled a wrist injury for almost a year.
Berger would have had a chance to improve his ranking with strong performances at the Players Championship and the WGC-Match Play Championship, but both marquee events were canceled because of COVID-19.
Bad breaks are a big part of professional golf – they call it the rub of the green – but this one seems excessive.
“I don’t know if I could say I deserve a spot, but I feel like I’m playing well enough to earn a spot into the Masters,” Berger said. He has finished 10th, 27th and 32nd in his three trips to Augusta National.
The Masters has long desired to keep its field below 100 players because it enables them to avoid a two-tee start – imagine starting your round on the tenacious par-4 10th – and allows for weather delays.
But with this year’s championship ending on Nov. 15, when the sun sets in Augusta at 5:25 p.m., there’s little chance Masters officials will want to add to the field size by offering the 27-year-old Berger a special invitation.
Berger shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for a late invitation. And he hasn’t.
“Daniel is pretty good at not worrying about things that are out of his control,” said his father, Jay, a former top-10-ranked tennis player who is the Director of Instruction at the Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach.
“He has a lot of respect for Augusta National and the way they do things. The way he’s been playing, I don’t think it’s bothering him.”
Berger could win the FedExCup on Monday in Atlanta, but that’s likely as close as he’ll get to Augusta this year.
Can you imagine an American in the top 15 in the world rankings not being invited to the Masters?
These are strange times.