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Daniel Berger has tennis in his blood, but has become a top golfer

Golfer Daniel Berger tees off during the first

Golfer Daniel Berger tees off during the first round of The Northern Trust PGA golf tournament at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury on Aug. 24, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

By the nature of his genes, Daniel Berger should be playing tennis.

By the nature of his passion, he plays golf.

On Friday he played some very good golf, shooting a four-under-par 66 in the second round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and moving well up on the leaderboard on the strength of five birdies, a single bogey and a couple of strong up-and-down pars.

Berger’s father Jay once was a prominent player in the 1980s (reaching No. 7 in the world) who went on to be director of men’s tennis for the USTA’s development program, which included two stints as U.S. Olympic coach.

And while Daniel grew up on the tennis courts, he had a sister who was taking golf lessons. As the story goes, she could not make it on a few occasions and Daniel took her place. At age 11, he was hooked on the hooks, so to speak, and soon found himself more accomplished on the course than the courts.

After two seasons at Florida State, where he was a first-team All-American, Berger embarked on his professional career. He won the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2016 and 2017, climbing as high as 18th in the world rankings. But a finger-wrist injury sidelined him last season and he’s just now getting around to playing well, finishing second in Puerto Rico in February.

He had taken a month off before resuming play at the start of the year, an eternity in the life of a 26-year-old player. He needed to fill the time. “I bought a boat. The first month was awesome,” Berger said. “I haven't taken a month off from competitive golf in ten years. And then after that I got pretty bored.”

Bethpage Black got his attention in the PGA this week, and for at least one round he got the Black’s attention.

"It's a major championship, and you have to perform, and you have to play 72 great holes of golf,” said Berger. “And halfway through, I've done that. So the challenge is going to be the next 36 holes, and it's not going to get any easier.”

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