NASSAU, Bahamas – Daniel Berger didn’t have to knock rust off his clubs.
Instead, he hit his head straight away.
For the first time since the Ryder Cup in September, the number 17 in the world and winner of four PGA Tour titles played the first four holes with Birdy and signed the first round of the Hero World Challenge on Thursday on 6 under par 66 in the sun-kissed area Albany Golf Club.
Earlier in the week, Berger said he started his long hiatus by spending two weeks on his couch, then two weeks in the pool, and then two weeks on his boat before picking up a golf club again.
“It was a bit scary to take a break for over a month (without touching a club) because I haven’t done that in a while and was wondering if you would come back and still have it,” said Berger, the six Made birdies and an eagle. “But mentally and physically I needed the break. I just wasn’t ready to play. “
He was sure to be ready in the Hero, happy with almost everything he did on the first round. His most difficult task seemed to be getting around the golf course.
“I hadn’t gotten into the Pro ‑ am for over a month and a half and that was the hardest part today, just putting one foot in front of the other and getting the shot,” he said.
In a field in which 17 of the 20 players are among the top 25 in the world, Berger has secured part of the lead with Rory McIlroy and Abraham Ancer. A setback are Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Webb Simpson.
Despite the dismissal, Berger was not surprised by his game.
“I’ve played every day for the past 10 days and I’ve played really well,” he said. “I hit the ball very badly in the first two weeks and slowly started again. I saw my trainer, it was flying down and things were starting to go pretty fast and I chose it from there.
“It’s just hard to get back into the rhythm of things when you haven’t played competitively, but I got off to a good start and that made it easier. I was a little nervous on the first tee, which was surprising as this is my 150th start on the tour. But of course four birdies on the first four holes help with confidence. “
Berger, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year, will compete in 2022 without a FedEx Cup point. But he doesn’t regret not having played any tournaments in the fall.
“I think you have to listen to your body and how you feel mentally,” said Berger, who last played 2: 1-0 in the Ryder Cup. “The Ryder Cup was grueling and it was so hard on me physically and emotionally that I just didn’t feel like I could go to a golf tournament to prepare as well as possible.
“So for me it was the only decision I had to make.”
Seems to be the right one so far.