Jason Dufner and wife Amanda with the trophy, in Rochester, on Sunday
Rochester: Jason Dufner erased memories of his heart-breaking late collapse two years ago when he clinched his first Major title by two shots in the 95th PGA Championship on Sunday.
One stroke behind playing partner Jim Furyk overnight, the ultra-laidback Dufner produced some scintillating approach play on the way to a two-under-par 68 and a 10-under total of 268 on the challenging Oak Hill Country Club.
“It probably still hasn’t hit me yet,” the American said after being presented with the coveted Wanamaker Trophy, which he hoisted high before kissing it. “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”
Dufner, 36, seized control with three birdies on the front nine and shut the door on his rivals with a steely display of precise shot-making, backed up by safety-first golf over the difficult closing stretch. A stunning approach to a foot at the par-four 16th earned him his fourth birdie of the day and he could afford the luxury of bogeys at 17 and 18, two of the toughest holes on the course, as he secured his third victory on the PGA Tour.
After putting out on the last green, Dufner retrieved his ball from the hole before partially raising both his arms in celebration with his eyes closed and a faint smile on his face. He was warmly embraced by his wife Amanda, followed by his good friend Keegan Bradley, who won the 2011 PGA Championship after Dufner blew a five shot lead with four holes to play.
“To come back from a couple of years ago in this championship, when I lost to Keegan in the playoff, to win feels really, really good,” said Dufner, who paved the way for his victory with a record-tying 63 in Friday’s second round.
“The last two holes were a little unfortunate,” said Dufner, the 19th different winner in the last 21 Majors.
“I wish I could’ve closed out with no bogeys but I am happy to get the job done. It’s a big step for my career.”
Former US Open champion Furyk, bidding at the age of 43 to win his first Major crown in a decade, signed off with a 71 to finish alone in second place after struggling off the tee.
Rory McIlroy effectively sank his title defence when he hit his second shot at the par-four fifth into water en route to a triple-bogey before winding up at three under with a 70.
Tiger Woods, seeking to end a five-year title drought at the Majors, ended a forgettable week with a 70 to finish halfway down the leaderboard at four-over 284.
Woods, a heavy favourite after a dominant win last week recovered from a shaky outward nine as he came home in three-under 32 but his overall total of four-over 284 left him well off the pace.
“I put four good rounds (together) last week, unfortunately it wasn’t this week,” said Woods.
“Didn’t seem to hit it as good and didn’t make many putts until the last few holes today. But I didn’t give myself many looks and certainly didn’t hit the ball good enough to be in it.” (Reuters)