Defending PPC champ Rich Berberian Jr. opens with 4-under 67

Rich Berberian Jr.
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America
Rich Berberian Jr. could not have asked for a much better start in his PPC title defense at Sunriver Resort on Sunday. He shot a 4-under 67 and was one shot off the early clubhouse lead.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Published: Sunday, June 18, 2017 | 6:50 p.m.

SUNRIVER, Oregon -- It's been an unbelievable 12 months for Rich Berberian Jr.

One year ago, in just his second start at the PGA Professional Championship, the PGA Director of Instruction from Vesper Country Club in Tyngsborough, Mass., holed a 33-foot birdie putt on the last hole to fire a final-round 69 at Turning Stone's Atunyote course to win the tournament.

Since then, Berberian made the cut in two of his four PGA Tour starts -- a T66 at Pebble Beach and a 71st-place showing in the Shell Houston Open -- all before traveling to Sunriver Resort this week to defend his PPC title.

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All in all, the experience entering this year's PPC is a whole lot different than when Berberian went to New York in 2016 a year after missing the cut at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

"It's a lot different being here as the defending champion," said the 29-year-old. "I had a pretty good attitude today. It didn't really matter to me what I shot this week, it was more so just being happy to be out here and playing. That freed me up a lot because I was pretty nervous coming into the week as the defending champion and wanting to do good. It doesn't matter anymore because I did a lot last year and I can't expect too much more than that."

For someone who claims it "didn't matter" what he shot, that freewheeling attitude might just be the reason Berberian carded a 4-under 67 at Sunriver's Meadows course on Sunday, a score that had him just one shot off the early clubhouse lead held by Nashville's Loren Personett.

"I hit it really well off the tee today," he said. "It didn't leave me much on the back nine. I had a lot of short irons into par 5s. At the turn, I started to lose the putter a little bit I didn't get up and down on 1 or 3I three-putted 2 to make a par. But after that we settled ourselves and kept hitting drivers and trying to get up there as close as we can because it's a tight course for me. I left myself some more wedges on the back, hit a couple close and didn't have to worry about the putter too much after that."

In prime positon, Berberian will now had a couple miles down the road to the Crosswater course for what he hopes will be the first of three more rounds in this PPC.

"The greens at Crosswater are a lot faster, so I need to be good with the putter," he said. "If I drive it well like I did today, it'll make it a lot easier. I need to control my speed a lot better on the greens though."

Should Berberian win come Wednesday, he'd be the first player since Mike Small in 2010 to successfully defend the PPC title. Only three players have turned the trick in the tournament's history (Roger Watson did it in 1974-75 and Larry Gilbert in 1981-82).  

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.