Daniel Berger. NurPhoto

Fittingly, after taking one of golf’s longest breaks, Daniel Berger is set to return on golf’s longest day.

Berger, who turned 30 on Friday of this year’s Masters Tournament, was last seen in action at the 2022 US Open at the Country Club, Brookline. He missed the cut, shooting rounds of 70 and 75 before shutting it down for nearly a year due to lingering back issues.

As Berger told the Associated Press earlier this month, he reached a point of no return in Massachusetts last June. A week earlier, he tied for fifth in the Memorial Tournament despite suffering from serious pain, then told himself “this is it”. He attempted to gut it out at Brookline anyway.

“I was taking two ice baths a day to get on the course,” Berger said.

The issue first arose during a break Berger took after his 2021 Ryder Cup debut at Whistling Straits, where Berger went 2-1-0 overall. He didn’t play an official PGA Tour event after that until the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he tied for fifth. Over the next sixth months he made 11 starts, collecting six top-25 finishes with a bad back and even taking a five-shot lead into the final round of the 2022 Honda Classic. By the sound of it, fighting through the pain was not worth it.

“That was the worst six months of my life,” Berger said. “I’ve had a pretty easy life. I play golf for a living — it’s not that stressful. But there was a point that I would have given up golf for the rest of my life not to feel like that.”

Fortunately, Berger is not giving up the game, instead using the last 300-plus days to rehab his way back to the golf course. A book reference from European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald, in addition to plenty of training, has allowed Berger to see enough progress over the last few months to feel confident enough to tee it up for real again. This coming Monday, the four-time PGA Tour winner will be off at 7.35am local time at Pine Tree Golf Club in Boynton Beach, Florida, in the US Open final qualifying stage.

The 36-hole day is among the sport’s most gruelling tests, which shows you just how much better Berger must be doing, and how eager he is to get back. Once as high as No. 12 in the world, Berger is currently 146th.