You would think being paired for the first time ever with a five-time major winner on a Sunday of a PGA Tour event would make you a little nervous. For 23-year-old Daniel Berger, it was all just par for the course. In fact, the 2015 PGA Rookie of The Year dropping Phil Mickelson’s full name as he held him off to win the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis this past weekend.
“He’s Philip to me for sure,” Berger told The Jim Rome Show on Tuesday. “I was kind of messing with him a little bit, because I’ve just grown up in the environment where we just give each other crap, and I like to call him by his first name and his first name is Philip, and he didn’t like that very much. And he said no I’m Phil to you until you win on the PGA Tour, it was kind of funny because when I won he was like, now you can call me Philip. So I call him Philip from now on.”
Berger wasn’t apologizing for his brashness towards Mickelson either, and he believes that might be why the 45-year-old was fond of him.
“I was just like, I don’t really care. I’m going to do what I want to do, and I think that’s kind of why maybe he likes me a little bit because he’s maybe not used to being talked to like that,” Berger said. “But it’s cool to have a guy to look up to like that.”
During the three-hour delay, Berger says Mickelson was talking junk to him about his previous season’s award.
“He asked me, if in the history of the PGA Tour had a rookie of the year ever won a rookie of the year without winning a PGA title that year, and that kind of got me a little upset there,” Berger said. “But it was nice to get it done, and no one can ever take away being a PGA Tour winner, so that’s something I can have for the rest of my life.”
Berger thinks Mickelson’s jawing had to do with him trying to get his 43rd PGA Tour win.
“I don’t think he was trying to get in my head. I think he’s just that type of guy, and he’s just really competitive. I’m really competitive,” Berger said. “But I think it’s cool. It’s a cool relationship, and it’s fun to have a guy like that on Tour to be friends with.”
Berger’s dad, Jay, was a professional tennis player, and he spoke about the benefits of being raised in a competitive family.
“It’s huge. I’ve just always grown up kind of with my parents instilling this competitive nature in me,” Berger said. “It didn’t matter what I was doing. If I was playing Xbox, or if I was playing in the yard with my brother, I wanted to win everything and that’s kind of the environment my parents raised me in, and I think that’s made the biggest difference and how quickly I’ve gotten good at golf.”
While growing up, Berger worked at The Dye Preserve golf course in Jupiter, Florida, a place where several PGA golfers are members, including Steve Marino, who Berger once talked into playing him for $500.
“It was nerve racking, but I was just that cocky little 14-year-old kid who just didn’t take no for an answer,” Berger said. “I think that we need to see a little bit more of that out of our young golfers, because that’s the difference between great and not being great.”
Berger said he actually beat Marino too.
“The first time I beat him, he wouldn’t pay me. He was so pissed,” Berger said. “Steve Marino wouldn’t pay me, and I was like, dude you’re paying me I just beat you. And he was like, no let’s go double or nothing, and obviously he beat me. But we had a great relationship, and he’s still one of my best friends, and it’s cool to see how I grew up, 14-years-old, picking the range, practicing, playing with the pros, and now I’m out here competing against them every week.”
Berger laughs about Marino not paying him now. “I didn’t get it, but who would want to pay a 14-year-old $500? So I could see where he was coming from.”