Thursday, June 21, 2018

Jason Dufner overtakes Padraig Harrington for Transitions Championship lead

PALM HARBOR — By his own admission, Jason Dufner has played two boring rounds at the Transitions Championship. But with all the attention on Padraig Harrington, who set a course record with 61 on Thursday, Dufner very quietly took over the 36-hole lead on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course.

For the second straight day, Dufner shot 5-under 66 Friday and was 10 under for the tournament, two shots ahead of Harrington and William McGirt. Harrington shot 2-over 73 Friday but remained in contention. McGirt shot 3-under 68 that included two bogeys.

There was a group of five golfers bunched at 7 under, including Fort Myers' George McNeill, a former Florida State standout, and Luke Donald. Former Transitions winner Jim Furyk was at 6 under.

"It was very stress free again," Dufner said. "I hit a lot of fairways and greens. It was a pretty easy 5 under again. Kind of a boring round, actually."

When the day started, Dufner trailed Harrington by five. Harrington, who started on the back nine, birdied the 11th hole to go 11 under. But bogeys on Nos. 18, 6 and 7 took him out of the lead. On the sixth hole, Harrington missed a 1-foot putt.

"I didn't hit the ball close enough," Harrington said. "I didn't have those 15-footers where you're not worried about pace. I tended to either have short putts or long putts, and I was tentative on the long putts."

With Harrington struggling, Dufner took advantage. He birdied the first hole and went on to shoot 4 under on the front side. He was more consistent on the back nine. He birdied the 11th, then made seven consecutive pars to end his round.

Dufner is the only player in the 144-player field without a bogey. He is also the only player in the top 50 of the world rankings without a win. He is ranked 39th.

Dufner had two playoff losses last year, including one against Keegan Bradley in the PGA Championship. He believes he's close to finally winning a tournament, which would stop the ongoing questions.

"I feel like I've played a lot of good golf and I'm just waiting to get one of those championships," Dufner said. "Playing as well as I have at times, I'm looking forward to getting one. I know one day I'll be holding a trophy."

Unlike Dufner, McGirt has not come close to winning. The 32-year-old Wofford College graduate was a Tour rookie in 2011. He was forced to go back to PGA qualifying school and earned his card for this year by finishing tied for 13th. His best finish ever was last week at the Puerto Rico Open, where he tied for 14th.

In last year's Transitions Championship, McGirt missed the cut. His ranking is No. 369.

"I've hit really good putts for two straight days," McGirt said. "I can't think of very many bad putts. Hopefully I can keep that up over the weekend."

Harrington did not putt well Friday. He had 33 putts, compared to 22 on Thursday. But his opening-round 61 gave him some wiggle room in the second round.

"The great thing is, having shot well (Thursday), if I play good golf on the weekend, I'll be the winner," Harrington said. "I didn't do too much damage."


Jason Dufner6666-10
Padraig Harrington6173-8
William McGirt6668-8
Chris Couch6768-7
George McNeill6768-7
Luke Donald6768-7
Sang-Moon Bae6966-7
Ken Duke6867-7


Sergio Garcia6868-6
Ernie Els7067-5
Vijay Singh71 70-1
John Daly6972-1

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