The last time Steve Stricker selected Daniel Berger with a captain’s pick in an international competition, Berger scored the winning point in the Americans’ victory over the International Team in the 2017 Presidents Cup.
So it shouldn’t have been a surprise Wednesday when Stricker made Berger one of his six captains picks for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in two weeks. Berger is one of six rookies on the U.S. team.
“We know what we’re getting (in Berger), a great competitor, a gutsy competitor,” Stricker said. “There’s no weakness in his game and he’s very consistent. He played well this year, especially in the last couple of majors. He’s a gutsy, classy guy with a never-give-up attitude.”
When the Ryder Cup captain uses the word “gutsy” twice to describe your game, that’s always a good thing. The 27-year-old Berger is 16th in the world rankings after winning twice since the PGA Tour resumed play last June after the COVID-19 shutdown.
Berger joins a U.S. team that already includes area pros Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay. When Harris English was made another captain’s selection Wednesday, that meant two local caddies – Eric Larson of Palm Beach Gardens and Matt Minister of Jupiter (Cantlay’s caddie) – also will be at Whistling Straits.
Other captain’s picks announced Wednesday were Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth. The rest of the U.S. squad includes Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas.
Berger bolstered his resume with top-10 finishes in the British Open (T8) and U.S. Open (T7). Stricker and Berger have similar, low-key personalities that help them handle the pressure of match play.
“Strick is a great leader. He makes it about the players, which I think is very important in a team environment,” Berger said Wednesday. “I’m very grateful to represent the United States of America and hopefully put some points on the board for team USA.”
Berger isn’t the only person in his family who has represented the U.S. in international competitions. His father, Jay, the director of athletics at The Club at Ibis in West Palm Beach, twice coached the U.S. tennis team in the Olympics and held the same position for the U.S. Davis Cup team for more than a decade.
“This means the world to Daniel,” Jay Berger said Wednesday. “Just look at how many players who don’t make the team who want to become vice-captains. This is the most important event they will play in their lifetime. It’s pretty amazing Daniel will get to represent his country.”
Berger ranked in the top 20 in seven categories on the PGA Tour this season. His scoring average of 69.86 was eighth, he was seventh in greens in regulation (70.5), fifth in approach to the green and 14th in tee to green.
Plus, he’s compatible.
“I think I’m really good friends with just about everybody and I feel like I can play with anybody,” Berger said Sunday at the Tour Championship. “My game kind of suits all different kind of courses, short, long. I think I drive the ball really well. I putt really well. I chip really well.
“This year I’ve done a lot of work improving my iron play and that’s shown with my scoring average. When you look at my overall golf game, there’s not really any areas that I have a weakness in. I think that’s always a nice thing to have on the team.”