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Dufner Gets Maiden Victory in New Orleans
Jason Dufner has been on the cusp of taking home his first PGA Tour title before, but the Ohio native and current Alabama resident just hasn't been able to get over the hump. But all that's in the past as the 35-year-old survived a two-hole sudden-death playoff to beat Ernie Els and win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
With a two-stroke lead entering the final round at TPC Louisiana, Dufner posted a bogey and two birdies on the front nine Sunday, with another birdie on the par-4 10th. But pars over his final eight holes gave him a 2-under 70 and brought Els, an 18-time PGA Tour winner, into the fray. Golf's "Big Easy" closed with a 5-under 67 - thanks to a 4-under 32 on the front side - in the city called "The Big Easy" to tie Dufner and send it to extra holes.
The players returned - twice it turned out - to the par-5 18th for the playoff. Both carded pars the first time around, with Dufner three-putting and Els just missing his birdie try. Back they went down the 18th, with Dufner again finding the green in two while Els' had to hit out of a bunker after his drive found sand. Els' third shot landed in the fringe, 19 feet from the cup.
This time Dufner didn't three-putt, placing his eagle try 19 inches from the cup. After Els' birdie attempt missed, Dufner calmly sank his winning putt.
"It was a tough day," an obviously relieved Dufner said at greenside. "Ernie put up a great number." As for his long-awaited first triumph, which came after 164 tournaments and several tough losses - including one to Keegan Bradley in last year's PGA Championship, Dufner finally got to visit the winner's circle, calling the moment "a little monkey off my back."
The timing is pretty good too as Dufner will be marrying his long-time sweetheart next Saturday. The victory was worth $1.152 million.
Luke Donald overcame an opening 1-over 73 with rounds of 65, 66 and 67 to soar into solo third at 271. With his high finish the 34-year-old Englishman supplants Rory McIlroy as the No. 1 golfer in the world when the new rankings come out Monday. The Northern Irishman had replaced Donald in the top spot last month.
Ryan Palmer (69) and Canada's Graham DeLaet (71) tied for fourth at 272, while taking sixth another stroke back was Steve Stricker (70). Ken Duke (70), Cameron Tringale (71) and John Rollins (72) shared seventh at 274.
Another stroke back in 10th were David Mathis (65), Justin Rose (68) and Rickie Fowler (70).
Bubba Watson, last year's champion in New Orleans, shot a 70 to end up T-18 at 11-under 277. Watson, the winner in the Masters earlier this month, noted after the round - as he had throughout the past four days - that his thoughts were elsewhere during the tournament.
"My mind is with my wife and my kid," he told reporters later. "I want to go home and spend time with them. I want to be a better husband, a better dad. I want to learn how to be a dad. You know, we've had him for five weeks. I've only been home for maybe two weeks.
"So I just want to go home and then see what feels like to be a real dad, you know, and be there and support my wife and everything. So, that's where I really want to be right now."
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