By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The winless drought of U.S. players in major championships came to a halt at six on Sunday, thanks to 25-year-old Keegan Bradley’s amazing victory in the 93rd PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Prior to Sunday, Europeans had won four of those six with South Africans taking the other two.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Europeans in Atlanta, however, especially those hailing from Scandinavia.
Denmark’s Anders Hansen fired a final-round, 4-under 66 to finish one shot out of the Bradley-Jason Dufner playoff at 7-under 273. It was Hansen’s best finish in a major by a long shot and his first ever top-10.
“I’m very proud of myself,” said the 40-year-old Hansen, a three-time winner on the European Tour. “Obviously you play a major, it's tough, the course is set up tough. I thought my ball striking has been good all week. I played really, really solid from tee to green and the putting has been pretty solid. It has not been magnificent but it's been pretty solid so all in all, it's good for my confidence. It's good for the future.”
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson -- a two-time member of the European Ryder Cup squad -- tied for fourth at 5-under 273 thanks to a 3-under 67 in the final round. It was Karlsson’s fifth top-10 in a major and his best effort since a tie for fourth in the 2008 U.S. Open. The tall Swede now has a top-10 result in all four majors and knows he can eventually win one.
“After today, it's probably the first time I can say to myself, I am good enough to win one of these,” said the 41-year-old Karlsson. “Obviously it helps … I know I've played against them many, many times and that I have beaten them on several occasions, so obviously it's way easier to see it, it's been done. When British Open champion] Darren [Clarke] does it … it's different if Tiger does it every time he shows up and feels a bit harder, but now it is possible.”
Karlsson looked poised for a run at the Wanamaker Trophy after a clutch eagle on the par-5 12th hole put him to 6 under for the day and 8 under for the tournament.
“It's very easy in those kind of conditions to get ahead of yourself and start to think about what could happen and not could happen, so I tried to avoid the leaderboards and just play,” said Karlsson, referring to his mindset after the eagle.
Like many, however, Karlsson’s downfall came on the closing holes. He finished his round with three consecutive bogeys to bow out of contention. In all, Karlsson – an 11-time winner on the European Tour who makes his home in Charlotte, N.C., these days – played the last four holes at Atlanta Athletic Club in 3 over par for the week.
All in all, Karlsson was pleased with his finish. Beginning the final round trailing the leaders by five shots, he didn’t figure he’d have much of a chance.
“Try to make par, that's really what you try to do on a course like this,” he said. “You can't really push too much. You try and sort of play to give yourself putts to most of the holes and if one rolls in, that's a bonus. Everything from 13 and in is hard holes, so you just try to play them and give yourself chances.”
Hansen was flawless for the most part on Sunday. His lone blunder was a bogey on the 16th hole, but he bounced back with a birdie at the 17th and parred No. 18 – the most difficult hole on the course this week – to cap off a brilliant finishing round.
“I choose to look at it as a good week … wherever I finish, it's been a good week for me,” Hansen said. “Obviously it would have been nice, but I think everybody could have said: Had I made that putt, had I done this; we can all do that. And that's not the way the game is played.”