Thursday, February 22, 2018
Golf

Dufner wins first major at PGA Championship

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Equipped with a two-shot lead at the turn, still carrying a few scars from his PGA Championship collapse two years ago, Jason Dufner never showed signs of cracking.

No one expected anything else from a player whose popularity comes from his flat-line personality.

He merely waved to the gallery when he shot 7-under 63 in the second round to tie a major championship record. He didn't show much of a pulse Sunday as he matched scores with Jim Furyk at every hole on the back nine of Oak Hill with a two-shot lead.

Only after Dufner tapped in for bogey on 18 to win his first major did he crack a smile, raise both arms and give a slight fist pump.

"Nobody can take that away from me," Dufner, 36, said after he closed with 2-under 68 for a two-shot win over Furyk at 10-under 270. "It's a great accomplishment for me, and I'm really excited about it."

Dufner wasn't sure he would get another chance after the 2011 PGA, where he blew a four-shot lead with four holes to play and lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. But he wasn't about to let this one get away.

"It probably hasn't hit me yet. I can't believe this is happening to me," the Auburn alum said. "To come back from a couple of years ago … when I lost to Keegan in a playoff to win feels really, really good."

Dufner, who began the day one shot back of leader Furyk, won by playing a brand of golf that matches his personality. It wasn't exciting. It didn't need to be.

Dufner seized control at the turn. He made a short birdie on 8 to take a one-shot lead, and Furyk bogeyed 9 to fall two behind. Furyk never punched back, the agony apparent in his mannerisms as hope slipped away as he matched Dufner's bogeys on each of the last two holes for 1-over 71.

"I wish I could've put some heat on him," Furyk said. "I wish I had made him work harder those last two holes. … But I don't look at it as I lost the golf tournament. I look at it as I got beat by somebody that played better (Sunday)."

At last year's PGA, Furyk bogeyed two of the last three holes and finished two behind Webb Simpson. "I guess it's days like this that will make the next one sweeter," said Furyk, 43, now four times a major runnerup.

Henrik Stenson, trying to become the first Swede to win a men's major, pulled within two of the lead on 13 and was poised to make a run until he bogeyed 14. The British Open runnerup (70) finished third at 7 under. Swede Jonas Blixt (70) was fourth at 6 under.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who began the day with an outside shot at winning, made triple bogey on No. 5 to lose hope. He closed with 70 and tied for eighth at 3 under, his first top 10 in a major this year.

Tiger Woods extended his drought to 18 majors. Not even in the hunt, he closed with 70 to sit 14 shots out of the lead.

Dufner — responsible for the "Dufnering" craze, started by a photo of him slumped against a classroom wall, eyes dazed, during a school charity event as the teacher taught children how to relax and concentrate — did admit to a bit of nerves early, particularly with his first 3-foot putt on the opening hole.

"I come across as a pretty cool customer, I guess," he said, "but there are definitely some nerves out there, especially when you're trying to win a major championship." Still, he said, "I would say I was pretty flat-lined for most of the day."

After he let loose, as it were, with his winning fist pump, he hugged his wife, Amanda, and gave her a tap on the tush with the cameras rolling. Amanda, asked if he had ever been nervous, replied, "If he has been, he's never told me."

Also congratulating Dufner as he walked off the course was Bradley, a 2012 Ryder Cup teammate. Bradley had finished his round earlier (66, 1 under for the tournament) and was driving to the airport when, with Dufner close to winning, he decided to turn around.

"We … went through a red light. We were flying to be here," Bradley said. "He's a good guy, and he's good-hearted about a little ribbing I give him about (the 2011 playoff)."

"We just kind of bro-hugged, which I don't know how that goes over," Dufner cracked. "He just said, 'I'm proud of you.' And I said, 'Thanks a lot. It means a lot for you to be here.' "

 
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