FORT WORTH, Texas — Daniel Berger dreamed of moments like this, a putt on the final hole with everything riding on it, and he pulled it off to perfection Sunday at Colonial Country Club.
What he never imagined is how quiet it would be.
No cheers when his 10-foot birdie on the final hole of regulation gave him a share of the lead. No groans when Collin Morikawa missed a six-foot birdie putt for the win. And more silence on the first playoff hole, which Berger won with a par.
"It was a little different for sure, but in the end, I was holding the trophy. And that's all that matters to me," said Berger, a 27-year-old Floridian whose only other PGA Tour victories are back-to-back titles at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2016-17.
The PGA Tour made a healthy and muted return from the COVID-19 pandemic at the Charles Schwab Challenge, except for Morikawa and Xander Schauffele having reason to feel sick to their stomachs.
After falling short of victory on the 72nd hole, Morikawa hit a superb pitch on No. 17 in the playoff to put the ball three feet from the cup. Berger converted his simple up and down for par from behind the green, and Morikawa's short par putt to extend the playoff hit the right side of the cup and spun out.
"Just hit a better putt," Morikawa said. "My mind can't go much else than other what just happened on that hole."
Schauffele made three straight clutch putts — for par, bogey and birdie — that kept him tied for the lead, but his three-foot par putt on No. 17 in regulation dipped in the hole on the right side and came out on the left. His 25-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to force a playoff was right on line but came up short.
"If there are fans and everything with the 'oohs' and 'aahs,' I'd probably be a little more (ticked) off," Schauffele said. "Maybe that's a good thing for me right now. But it was definitely weird. It was sort of an internal battle, which it always is for me, but more so internal this week just with no fans."
Berger's birdie on the 18th gave him a 4-under 66, and Morikawa matched him at 15-under 265 with a 67.
Bryson DeChambeau (66), Jason Kokrak (64) and Justin Rose (66) all had birdie chances on the 18th, but they wound up tied for third with Schauffele (69).
Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell, a former Baylor School and University of Georgia golfer, closed with a 73 to tie for 64th at 2-over 282.
Colonial was devoid of fans, just like the next four weeks will be on the PGA Tour, and the routine was anything but. Berger went from the golf course to his rented house, with his uncle serving as the chef. He had a saliva test in Florida and a nasal test when he arrived for the new coronavirus, both negative.
He was excited when he arrived — Berger has shot par or better every round since Oct. 11 — because golf was back to business. And he was thrilled when he left, a winner again after missing nearly five months at the end of 2018 because of a wrist injury. The victory moved him from outside the top 100 to No. 31 in the World Golf Ranking.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, on the first tee when golf returned Thursday, was back in Florida watching TV coverage of a final round in which eight players took turns at the top, with a half-dozen still in the mix over the final hour.
The final scorecard included 487 tests for COVID-19 at Colonial, all returned negative. The leaders brought star power, Colonial brought heritage and it was the first live PGA Tour event since March 12 because of the pandemic.
"This has been a phenomenal start to our return," Monahan said.
It was almost a tremendous return for Morikawa, who is so steady that he already has won and has made every cut as a pro dating to his graduation from the University of California a year ago. No newcomer has had a streak that long since Tiger Woods.
Morikawa took a share of the lead with a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole. It was the short ones that hurt.
"We gave ourselves our chance, and that's what you want at the end," Morikawa said. "Yeah, it's going to sting for a little bit, but we'll make it out and we'll go on to next week."
Jordan Spieth, trying to end three years without a victory, left with a consolation prize of progress. The Dallas native and three-time major champion missed a two-foot par putt on the sixth hole — part of three bogeys in a four-hole stretch — but was still in the mix until a tee shot out of bounds on the 14th. Even then, he made a 35-foot putt to save bogey. He wound up with a 71 and tied for 10th.
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy had seven straight tournaments no worse than fifth, a streak that came to a stunning halt. After starting the final round three shots behind, he was 5 over through seven holes and closed with a 74 to tie for 32nd.
Monahan conceded his biggest concern going into the week, even with testing and safety procedures in place, was positive tests popping up.
"That's something, candidly, that I lost a lot of sleep over in the weeks that preceded coming in," he said.
Next up is the RBC Heritage on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and Monahan said the first week won't be complete until then to see how players handled the interstate travel. Those on the charter flight were tested after the third round. Everyone else would be tested when they arrived.
"This is about a sustained return," Monahan said. "But I think as we sit here late in the day Sunday, there's no question that this has been an exceptional week."