LOS ANGELES • Daniel Berger will head to the US Open with confidence after surprising himself by becoming the fourth player to retain his title at the St Jude Classic in Memphis on Sunday.
He shot a bogey-free four-under 66 at TPC Southwind in Tennessee to emerge top of a crowded leaderboard for a one-shot victory over South African Charl Schwartzel (66) and South Korean Kim Meen Whee (67).
On a day when Phil Mickelson was tied for the lead until a triple-bogey at the par-four 12th, Berger finished at 10-under 270, joining Dave Hill, Lee Trevino and David Toms as back-to-back winners of an event that started in 1958.
"I'm one-for-one defending titles, so that's a pretty good stat," he joked after securing his second PGA Tour victory at the age of 24.
"I can't believe I won again. It's been a battle. I'm extremely proud."
Perhaps he benefited from following the same routine this year as he had done last season.
"I'm staying in the same hotel room, exact same room number that I was last (year)," he said.
He will tee it up in his third US Open on the back of a strong season, with four top-10 finishes and five top-25 finishes.
Schwartzel will start at Erin Hills in Wisconsin on Thursday with a spring in his step after his near miss.
"I putted better today. I stroked the ball well," said the 2011 Masters champion.
Mickelson, meanwhile, admitted he had become unusually flustered after seeing a leaderboard on the 11th hole that showed him tied for the lead.
"It shook me to be honest," said the five-time Major champion. "I didn't expect to be there. It was as if I'd never won before."
He dropped three strokes at the 12th and shot a 68, finishing three shots behind Berger.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE