Redemption at PGA feels great, says Dufner
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Two years after suffering the heartache of a major championship playoff loss, Jason Dufner earned his redemption at Oak Hill Country Club on Sunday by winning the 95th PGA Championship.
“It feels great,” said the 36-year-old Dufner, who set a 72-hole major scoring record at Oak Hill with his 10-under 270, which was two shots better than runner-up Jim Furyk. “Probably hasn't sunk in. Been running around here. Today was a tough day. The golf course, again, played pretty tough. Me and Jim, it kind of came down to a two-man race there at the end. He's a great champion and he's played so well in so many majors, and he's been there before. So it was a tough test for me. The golf course was tough, but you know, my name will always be on this trophy, and nobody can take that away from me, so it's a great accomplishment for me and I'm really excited about it.”
In a performance that would have made his hero Ben Hogan proud, Dufner put on a ball-striking clinic at Oak Hill throughout the week – hitting over 60 percent of the fairways and 75 percent of the greens overall – and especially in Sunday’s 2-under 68.
“For me to be competitive on this type of golf course, I felt like I had to have a great week ball striking and I was able to do it,” Dufner said. “I hit a lot of fairways. If I did miss the fairways, I wasn't in the thick, thick stuff, so I could manage to get it up by the greens. When I did hit the fairways, I hit a ton of greens, and that was the difference for me.
“My scrambling was pretty good today. I see I only didn't get one ball up and down. That was on the last. But I felt like if I wanted to compete this week, I really had to put one of my best weeks ball striking so far this year.”
Entering the final round trailing Furyk – the 54-hole leader – by one, Dufner pulled even with a birdie at No. 4. After another birdie on the fifth hole, Dufner took a lead he would share with Furyk briefly, but never relinquish.
At the eighth hole, Dufner took command for good. A sensational short-iron approach shot that flirted with the hole before settling inches away for a tap-in birdie to move to 11 under.
A steady run of pars, many after good looks at birdie, made up most of Dufner’s back nine until another spectacular kick-in birdie at No. 16 that looked to seal the deal.
With the birdie on 16, Dufner had gone a remarkable 26 holes without a bogey.
Dufner had a two-shot lead with two holes to play. And they weren’t easy ones, either.
Nos. 17 and 18 measure right around 500 yards apiece and, statistically, they played as the No. 1 and No. 2 most difficult holes at Oak Hill all week.
Dufner bogeyed each of the last two holes after finding the rough with both tee shots, and Furyk followed suit.
Once Dufner tapped in the bogey to seal the win, he revealed a rare smile and even a brief raise of the fists. That’s about as excited as Dufner gets on the outside.
Bradley, in street clothes after finishing his round hours earlier, greeted Dufner with a bear hug as he walked to the clubhouse to sign his scorecard.
“I saw Keegan as I finished up, and we just kind of bro-hugged, which I don't know how that goes over,” Dufner joked. “He just said, ‘I'm proud of you.’ And I just said, ‘Thanks a lot, it means a lot for you to be here.’”
The momentum really got going for Dufner in the second round on Friday. Receptive greens courtesy of heavy rain early that day and the night before helped Dufner become just the 26th player in major championship history to record a score of 63.
That 63 was also good for a new course record at Oak Hill, surpassing the 64s fired by Curtis Strange, Webb Simpson and Hogan.
Dufner shot a 1-over 71 in the third round, which wasn’t even close to indicative of how well he played. From the ninth hole on Saturday until the final hole on Sunday, Dufner recorded just two bogeys – again, on the final two holes.
The 10-under mark that Dufner recorded shattered the previous Oak Hill major scoring record of 6 under by Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 PGA Championship.