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Berger wins first TOUR event at FedEx St Jude

2015 Rookie of the Year finally breaks through

Killing time during a three-hour rain delay Sunday, Phil Mickelson ribbed Daniel Berger about having won the PGA TOUR rookie of the year award without a victory.

That was a bit of a sore spot for the ultra-competitive 23-year-old Floridian.

Berger answered once the thunderstorms ended by winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic for his first title. He shot a 3-under 67 to hold off Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Brooks Koepka by three strokes.

“To kind of get it done today means a lot,” Berger said.

Berger had never been in a final pairing until Sunday. First Mickelson needled him in the players’ dining area while everyone waited out the lightning. Then, Mickelson, with his 42 career PGA TOUR titles, closed within a stroke on the back nine. Berger responded with birdies on three of his next four holes, highlighted by a 32-foot putt on the par-3 14th that pushed his lead to 13 under.

He finished at 13-under 267. He became the 13th first-time winner on tour this season and took home the winner’s check of $1.1 million in the 50th start of his career.

“To do that with so many great players, Hall of Famers behind me, it’s something that I’ll never forget and I just love the way I hung in there and was able to get it done,” Berger said.

Mickelson and Stricker shot 67, and Koepka had a 66. Dustin Johnson had a 63, setting the back-nine record with a 29, to finish fifth at 9 under.

Mickelson complimented Berger for playing the back nine really well and said he enjoyed being in contention even though the veteran couldn’t quite catch the youngster.

“For the most part I hit a lot of good shots, played pretty well and seems, it almost feels like U.S. Open came a week early to finish another second place,” Mickelson said.

Berger also became the fourth first-time winner at this event in the past six years and 10th overall in Memphis.

Now he will head to Oakmont trying to do something no one has ever done before by following up a TOUR title by winning the U.S. Open. Only 11 have ever won a major after winning on TOUR, and Rory McIlroy was the last when he won the PGA Championship the week after taking the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2014.

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