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Dufner numb after collapse

Already two strokes behind, Jason Dufner waits with caddie Kevin Baile on the third playoff hole.

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Already two strokes behind, Jason Dufner waits with caddie Kevin Baile on the third playoff hole.

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Jason Dufner never showed much emotion at the PGA Championship. Not when he had the Wanamaker Trophy in the bag. Not when he threw it all away.

As the sun set on Atlanta Athletic Club, he just seemed numb.

Dufner wound up on the wrong end of one of the greatest comebacks in major championship history Sunday. Keegan Bradley overcame a five-shot deficit with three holes left in regulation then beat Dufner in a three-hole playoff.

"I'm so new at this situation, I don't know if I appreciate it as much as I will," Dufner said, quickly adding, "soon."

Dufner, 34, had not made a cut since late May, and he had never won on the PGA Tour — yet, here he was, on the cusp of winning one of the biggest events of all. He was playing textbook golf for the tough setup, keeping his ball in the fairway better than anyone and rolling the ball with poise and confidence on the greens.

He strolled the grounds like he owned the place, occasionally cracking a bit of a smile but mostly just staring straight ahead, as if this was his destiny.

Dufner went to the 15th tee four strokes ahead of the field and five up on Bradley.

But three straight bogeys by Dufner and two straight birdies by Bradley forced a playoff.

Now Dufner can take his place with all the guys who have endured heartbreak at the majors, from Scott Hoch to Jean Van de Velde.

"Maybe looking back in 10 or 15 years, I'll be disappointed if I never get another chance," Dufner said. "But I have a feeling I'll have more chances in a major to close one out."

McIlroy heads out: Rory McIlroy decided to go on a tennis vacation.

The U.S. Open winner finished his PGA Championship with 74, sending him to 11-over 291 and a tie for 64th. His injured right wrist felt better, and he was simply glad for a few days off.

Though McIlroy, 22, isn't heading home to Northern Ireland, he's off to Cincinnati.

"I hear it's nice up there this time of year," he said with a grin.

Cincinnati is the site of a WTA tournament featuring friend Caroline Wozniacki. The two have been the subject of gossip since they were photographed together a month ago.

McIlroy, though, quickly turned the conversation back to his PGA performance. It was a struggle, he said, since injuring his wrist in the opening round on an ill-considered shot, the ball up against a tree root.

"I basically played 70 holes of this tournament not at 100 percent, so it's always going to be tough," he said.

Rickie's reflections: Rickie Fowler played in all four majors for the first time. And despite only seriously contending in the British Open, he believes he has learned a few things that will help him in 2012.

Fowler closed the PGA Championship with 68, leaving him 51st at 6 over. He was 38th at the Masters, missed the cut at the U.S. Open and took fifth at Royal St. George's last month.

"Definitely learned a bit," he said. "Played good in a couple of Open championships overseas and look forward to getting into some more of those and getting some better finishes than the other majors."

Fowler hoped that would be at Atlanta Athletic Club, instead an opening 74 and a third-round 75 took him out of the mix. Then Fowler turned things around.

"I really didn't want to finish double digits over par," he said. "So I had something to shoot for."

Phil's week: Phil Mickelson never got the stellar round he expected, shooting 70 to finish at even 280 and tie for 19th.

"I felt like I was one good round away, 4 or 5 under par the first three days of getting in it, but just wasn't able to do it," he said. "I just really struggled making birdies here."

Mickelson thought he might have a Sunday run after reaching 2 under heading to the back nine. But then came bogey at 10 and par on the 551-yard 12th hole to take away the momentum.

"I was thinking eagle on 12 and didn't get it done," he said. "I certainly thought there was an opportunity here."

Dufner numb after collapse 08/14/11 [Last modified: Sunday, August 14, 2011 10:40pm]
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