The Players: “We must protect the field”: the fall of Daniel Berger scrutinized by the game competitors


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — There was a notice posted in the players locker room at TPC Sawgrass: “Every shot will be captured and transmitted live this week with enhanced coverage on PGA Tour Live/ESPN+, Golf Channel and NBC.

Late Monday, as officials raced to complete the weather-delayed Players Championship, this heightened exposure provided a rare moment of awkward drama.

Daniel Berger was 7 under and less than four shots from the lead on his second shot at par-5 16and hole sailed desperately right and into a water hazard. What happened next was a contentious exchange that played out on live television.

Viktor Hovland, who was paired with Berger, immediately fended off Berger’s pinfall attempt just before the green. “I don’t think he crossed over there,” Hovland said. “I’m sure they filmed it. We can take a look.

“You can call a rules officer and a camera,” Berger replied.

Joel Dahmen, the third member of the band, agreed with Hovland and a surprisingly heated debate ensued.

“I’m not going to take a drop that I don’t feel 100% okay for. I’m not saying it’s all up there [by the green]but it’s not there [motioning toward the spot Dahmen and Hovland were contending his golf ball crossed into the hazard]“Berger explained.

PGA Tour rules official Gary Young was called out, but deferred to the group: “You had the best angle on it. You will have to decide this between yourselves as you normally would. …I want you to go where you feel like it, and if you’re okay with it.”

Hovland then quickly chimed in: “To be honest with you, I don’t really agree with it being up there. That’s not really what I saw.

After more debate, Berger finally relented and moved closer to where Hovland and Dahman said his golf ball went through the hazard, but he didn’t like it.

“You know what,” Berger said, “I’m going down here for the sake of you, but you’re wrong. … It’s a bad fall.”

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Berger bogeyed the holeshot and finished with a 2 under 70 for a total of 6 under.

“I strongly felt my ball crossed here; they were convinced that was not the case; ultimately it’s a decision you have to make between your playing partners,” Berger said afterwards. “I’m not upset with where I fell; I think it was 100% the right place to drop off, but I thought it would have been a bit higher. In the end, it was the right decision.

Hovland said he’s had similar encounters with other players before about the right place to take a drop, and he felt like he and Berger had reached a compromise. But he added: “We have to protect the pitch and protect all the other guys.”

“We try to stay professional. It’s not like we’re trying to harass Daniel and bamboozle him. That’s right, that’s what we believe, and he obviously felt strongly the other way,” Hovland said. “I’m not accusing him of anything. The golf ball is in the air for a few seconds, so it’s hard to determine exactly where it crossed.”


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