Sunday, June 24, 2018

After 63, Dufner leads PGA Championship

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Jason Dufner lost his chance to make history in the PGA Champion­ship. And then he lost his shirt.

He still walked away from Oak Hill on Friday with a second round he won't forget — 63 — and a place in the record book with some of golf's greatest players. The moment was big enough that Dufner, whose most demonstrative method of expression is understatement, even agreed to show a little emotion.

Prompted in a TV interview, he flashed a smile. But only for a second.

"To join history, to shoot 63 in a major, pretty unbelievable," he said. "And to be leading the tournament, even better. So hopefully, it will propel me to a great weekend."

On No. 18, Dufner was a 12-foot birdie putt away from the lowest score in the 153 years of championship golf. The ball stopped short of the hole, though, and Dufner had to settle for 7-under 63 and a two-shot lead at 9-under 131 over Adam Scott (68), Jim Furyk (68) and Matt Kuchar (66).

"I showed a little bit of nerves there leaving it short at the end," Dufner, 36, said. "The history of the game is something that's dear to my heart. It's great to be part of it. It kind of plays with your mind a little bit."

Dufner's 63 was the 26th such score in a major and the first since Steve Stricker did it at the 2011 PGA Championship. Dufner also set the course record at Oak Hill, breaking the mark of 64 held by Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange and Webb Simpson, who shot 64 about five hours earlier. And he tied the 36-hole record for the PGA Championship shared by six others.

Dufner left behind his shirt, his cap and the glove he was wearing, which he signed with the date, the course and the score for the PGA of America museum.

"He's very calm," said Stricker, who played with Dufner and shot 67 to sit at 5 under. "I'm sure he was churning on the inside. … While we were signing our cards, he was like, 'This is a lot for a Friday.' "

On a rain-softened course where pelt-sized divots were flying and birdies were falling, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were left behind. Woods couldn't get anything going in his par 70. He was 1 over. Mickelson was all over Oak Hill, and another 71 left him 11 shots out of the lead.

In a community of pros known for their fitness regimens, beaming smiles and spotless clothes, Dufner is the shaggy-haired cousin with a paunch and a brow as wrinkled as his shirt. He was responsible for the craze known as "Dufnering" in April, started after the Internet posting of a photo of him slumped against a classroom wall, eyes dazed, during a charity event at an elementary school as the teacher taught children how to relax and concentrate.

"Dufnering" has won him legions of fans who line the fairways as he plays, slumping against trees in tribute as he passes. Friday, Dufner was trailed by fans wearing "Duf's Dips" T-shirts — a reference to the tobacco he puts between his lips and teeth — and who chanted "63" at the end of his round, something that for a second draw a wide grin from Dufner.

Holding the lead also had personal symbolism for him. Two years ago he led the PGA by five strokes with four holes to play. He bogeyed three holes and lost in a playoff with Keegan Bradley. "I've got more experience now in these majors," Dufner said.

This is the history he faces entering Round 3: Of the 20 previous times a player shot 63 in the first three rounds of a major, only four won (four finished 20th or worse). And none of the past seven major winners held a share of the 36-hole lead.


Jason Dufner 68-63 131 -9

Adam Scott 65-68 133 -7

Matt Kuchar 67-66 133 -7

Jim Furyk 65-68 133 -7

Justin Rose 68-66 134 -6

Henrik Stenson 68-66 134 -6

Robert Garrigus 67-68 135 -5

Steve Stricker 68-67 135 -5


Sergio Garcia 69-68 137 -3

Rory McIlroy 69-71 140 E

Tiger Woods 71-70 141 +1

Phil Mickelson 71-71 142 +2

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