After major flop, and minor 1 too, Dufner back atop PGA title hunt
By Jim Slater, AFPROCHESTER, New York--Two years after squandering a four-stroke lead in the last four holes to lose a major title, Jason Dufner once again leads a PGA Championship and has cracked under pressure.
August 11, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
The 36-year-old American matched the lowest round in major golf history on Friday, firing a seven-under par 63 to stand on nine-under 131 with a two-stroke lead after the second round of the 95th PGA Championship at rain-soaked Oak Hill.
But with a 12-foot putt on the 18th green to become the first player in major golf history to fire a round of 62, Dufner left his tension-packed putt a foot and a half short.
“I knew nobody had ever shot 62, so I knew where I stood and you couldn't have a better putt for a chance at history on the last hole but I just didn't quite hit it hard enough,” Dufner said.
“The greens had gotten a little bit slower, little bit bumpier and I probably didn't hit the best putt — probably the worst putt I hit of the day, which is a little disappointing.
“But all in all it's a 63 and my name is on top of the leaderboard so that's a great position to be playing from.
“If I could do it over, I guess I would hit the putt harder.”
Dufner, who won his first U.S. PGA title after 163 tries last year at New Orleans then followed by taking the Byron Nelson Championship, would not mind another chance at the 2011 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club either.
Four up with four holes remaining, Dufner led eventual winner Keegan Bradley by five strokes, but Dufner made bogeys at 15, 16 and 17 while Bradley birdied 16 and 17 to set up a three-hole playoff that Bradley won by a shot.
“What has happened in the past with me in majors is in the past,” Dufner said. “Still trying to chase it. Still trying to learn from the mistakes that I made in prior majors. I'm excited that I'm in the lead and looking forward to a good weekend and maybe closing one of these out.”
Dufner said his run in Atlanta, where he shared the 36- and 54-hole leads, was the best of his life, but in some ways the 63, which included an eagle and five birdies, was even better.
“Atlanta is probably the best week I've ever hit it in my career,” Dufner said. “I really played flawless there for 68 or 69 holes. That's probably the best I have hit it in my career.
“Today I scored better so that's the name of the game. I've got more experience playing in these major championships, winning a couple events since Atlanta, so that will always help.”
Dufner's 63 broke the old course record of 64 shared by Ben Hogan from 1942, Curtis Strange from 1980 and Webb Simpson from just hours before, but he and his rivals know it could have been much more had he made the birdie putt on 18.
“I could hear the roar and knew he had a big putt to shoot the lowest score in major championship history, so I was kind of pulling for him. That's a pretty good feat,” said Jim Furyk, who shares second on 133 with Matt Kuchar and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia.
With 24 players having fired a total of 26 63s in majors, Dufner said there might even be a bit of a mental barrier to shooting a 62 in a major.
“Major set-ups are so difficult,” Dufner said. “It's just a tough thing to shoot a 62 in a major and I'm sure there's a little bit of a mental hurdle for some guys to break that barrier.”
Dufner, who shared fourth in the past two US Opens, also figures he will have some hurdles before he captures that elusive major title.
“I'm sure guys will be gunning for whoever might be leading,” he said. “So I think it's important to stay aggressive and pick your spots — maybe later in the tournament, toward those last nine holes.”