The Case For…Daniel Berger as a Ryder Cup Captain’s Pick

September 11, 2016
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U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III has a daunting job ahead of him: filling the four spots on his squad reserved for wildcard picks. Who’s on DLIII’s short list? Presumably he already has his favorites — and we have ours. Each day in the run-up to Sept. 12, when Love will announce three of his picks (he won’t name his final pick until Sept. 26, the Monday after the Tour Championship), a staffer will make the case for a player who deserves the nod. Up next, Daniel Berger. Who do you think belongs on the team? Let us know here.  

The United States Ryder Cup season sure has been anticlimactic.   

As we approach the first wave of Davis Love’s three captain’s picks, little has happened since the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Right now, the “hot” player that Love has so vehemently hoped for does not exist. And so, with three picks due Monday, Love must look to the players that make the most sense.   

Daniel Berger is one of those players.  

The 23-year-old notched his first-career win this summer at the St. Jude Classic, making him the only prospective pick not named Ryan Moore to actually hold a trophy in the last three months. That important accomplishment aside, when you dissect the strengths Berger brings to the table, it becomes clear that he’s the perfect complement to the eight-man team already in place.  

He doesn’t bring a booming driver or flashy putter, but Berger is just solid from tee to hole. As a top-50 player off the tee, approaching the green and putting, his game easily harmonizes with others, which makes him a great fit for alternate shot. With a top-15 birdie average among Americans this year, he’s also a good bet for fourball. There aren’t many potential captain’s picks that look like a fit for both team formats.  

Love has continually stated that this time around he’s putting less emphasis on Ryder Cup experience.  I say, out with the wrinkled, fatigued veterans and in with the peach fuzz. Do they get any better and any younger than Berger? His best competition in the youth department, Justin Thomas, has missed twice as many cuts this season. Berger’s last MC came six months and 16 events ago. If consistency and is what Davis Love desires, Berger is the player.   

Berger has the makings of a steely competitor. He grew up under the ambitious tutelage of his professional tennis-player father, Jay, who beat up on Daniel between the baselines for much of his childhood. Daniel didn’t bother with high school golf; national junior competitions made greater sense. Early on, his eyes were set to the biggest prizes.

Is Berger’s competitive fire greater than that of other Tour players? That’s hard to tell; they all compete for a living. But from Davis Love’s crop of choices, only one was taking money off Steve Marino at the Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Florida at 13 years old. Only one of them made Phil Mickelson tap in from 19 inches to halve the second hole of a match this spring.

That was Daniel Berger. Get him on the team.