HONOLULU – Daniel Berger is set to make his return to the PGA Tour after an 18-month absence Thursday at the American Express in La Quinta, California. But the better story may be who will be carrying his bag.
Berger is set to have veteran caddie D.J. Nelson, who was on the bag for Heath Slocum when he won the 2009 Barclays, working for him in the desert. Nelson, who also has caddied for the likes of Chad Campbell and Hudson Swafford in the past, however, hasn’t been caddying on Tour for several years.
So, why did Berger turn to Nelson, who began caddying in 2001?
Here’s where the story gets good. Berger phoned Nelson and attempted to hire him. According to multiple sources – Berger didn’t return a call for comment at publication of this story – when Nelson accepted, Berger expressed surprise and asked, “So, you’re going to give up doing the TV?”
A perplexed Nelson responded, “Who do you think you’re talking to?”
“John Wood,” Berger said.
Wood, of course, is the former caddie of Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar, among others, turned NBC/Golf Channel on-course reporter. One of the most respected caddies in the game, he retired and joined the TV world in 2021 and said this week at the Sony Open, where he’s been working, that he’s happy with his new gig carrying a microphone instead of 14 clubs.
When Berger realized his mistake in dialing the wrong number, he didn’t blink and offered Nelson the job – at least for one week at the AmEx.
As one former caddie put it, “Classic Berger.” But maybe Berger knew something after all: Nelson has a good track record at PGA West including being on the bag for Swafford when he won there in 2017.
The 30-year-old Berger, a four-time Tour winner, has been sidelined with a back injury since missing the cut at the 2022 U.S. Open. He had been nursing the injury, which he described to the Associated Press as being a slight bulge in a lower disc and deep bone sensitivity, for most of that year. He signed up for U.S. Open qualifying in June but pulled out before he hit a shot.
Berger was a member of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits that year and was sorely missed in Italy in September. He was ranked No. 25 in the world when he last played and has since dropped to No. 634. He still has exempt status through 2024 from notching his last win at the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but isn’t qualified yet for the signature events or majors.
“When I come back, I’ll come…