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Dufner Roars into Lead at PGA Championship
Jason Dufner matched the all-time major scoring record of 63 Friday, thrusting the 36-year-old Ohioan to a 36-hole total of 9-under 131 and a two-stroke lead in the 95th PGA Championship. The final Grand Slam event of the year is taking place at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
Dufner, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour whose last victory came in the 2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship, carded five birdies and an eagle. He got off to a rousing starting, holing out from 153 yards on the par-4 second hole. His approach landed 30 feet past the pin and spun back downhill into the hole to wild applause from the gallery.
His 63 made Dufner the 26th player to shoot that number in a major; the last time it happened was by Steve Stricker in the first round of the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. It also broke Oak Hill's all-time competitive course record set by Ben Hogan in the 1942 Rochester Open and later matched by Curtis Strange at the 1989 U.S. Open.
Dufner had a legitimate shot at shooting 62 and becoming the first player to go that low in a major championship. After driving into the middle of the fairway on the 493-yard 18th hole, he hit his second shot to 12 feet below the hole. But his record-breaking birdie try stopped a foot short.
"Probably the worst putt I hit of the day, which is a little disappointing," Dufner told reporters. "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."
As for his name being etched in the record books, he remarked, "It's great to be part of history. But it would be even greater to close this championship off."
Earlier, at greenside, Dufner said of his birdie putt on the 18th, "It's tough - I was nervous. It's one of those you want to gun it, but I came up short." He was still happy with his record-breaking round at Oak Hill. "It's a real neat accomplishment."
Prior to Dufner's performance, 63s were shot twice at the Masters, four times at the U.S. Open, eight at the Open Championship and 11 - now 12 - in the PGA. Of those players posting 63s, only five ended up winning: PGA champions Raymond Floyd (1982 at Southern Hills) and Tiger Woods (2007 at Southern Hills); U.S. Open winners Johnny Miller (1973 at Oakmont) and Jack Nicklaus (1980 at Baltusrol); and Greg Norman, who shot a 63 at Turnberrry when he got the Claret Jug at the 1986 British Open.
Sharing second at 133 are Matt Kuchar (66) and 18-hole co-leaders Adam Scott and Jim Furyk, who followed up their opening 65s with 68s.
Scott carded five birdies and three bogeys Friday. "I'm pleased with the round," said the Aussie and 2013 Masters' champion. "It was difficult this morning. The course was playing really long with the heavy atmosphere and the rain, so I got off to a good start, which was important after yesterday's 65, and kept myself moving in the right direction.
"But when it eased up, it became really scorable out there, and I didn't quite take advantage of that, as I missed a few putts. But, hopefully, saved them for the weekend."
Tied for fifth at 134 are England's Justin Rose and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who both had 66s. In seventh another stroke back are Americans Robert Garrigus and Stricker, who posted a 68 and 67, respectively.
Garrigus rose up the leaderboard thanks to five birdies in his first eight holes. But the 35-year-old Idaho native's round stalled from that point forward with four bogeys and only one more birdie.
Webb Simpson got back into the mix with a 6-under 64 that tied Oak Hill's former record. The 2012 U.S. Open champion carded seven birdies and a bogey through 14 holes, but was unable to set a new course record as he parred the final four holes, nor equal the all-time major mark of 63.
"It was a great day," said the North Carolina native, who is tied for ninth at 4-under 136 with 2010 PGA champion Martin Kaymer (68), Charley Hoffman (67) and Aussie Marcus Fraser (69).
"Yesterday, at 5 over through eight holes, it was a pretty low moment for me," Simpson said. "But I kind of had a pep talk with myself on the seventh green, and you know, just told myself, one hole at a time and tried to get a birdie here, a birdie there, and somehow played the last 10 or 11 holes under par.
He was 7-under through 15 holes but bogeyed his 16th, the par-4 seventh, and parred in for the 64. "Two over felt like 64 yesterday after being 5 over," he added. "So extremely happy with my game today. All around, it was really solid. I made some great putts, made some good par putts to kind of keep the momentum going. You know, special feeling to have tied the course record here at Oak Hill."
No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods didn't take advantage of the good scoring conditions as dozens of other players did. After opening with a 1-over 71, the five-time winner in 2013 carded a 70 Friday that included four birdies and a like number of bogeys. Facing a 10-shot deficit to Dufner, Woods needs to really get hot over the weekend for any chance of securing his elusive 15th major title.
Phil Mickelson had a second straight 71. The reigning British Open champion's card was a bit more uncluttered than his first round, but it still listed only one birdie against two bogeys. He was paired in the first two rounds with fellow 2013 major winners, Scott and Rose (U.S. Open), with them teeing off Friday on the 10th hole.
"I struggled these first two days, for sure," the five-time major winner told reporters. "Playing with Adam and Justin, who played really terrific golf, made it look even worse. I fought hard to stay in it. It's just a little bit off. I feel like it can turn around in a second. I don't feel like it's that far off.
"I struggled on the greens. I was over reading most every putt. I really struggled fading the ball. I drew the ball well off the tee. I hit some good tee shots; it felt easy. I hit some good iron shots where I drew it, but I had trouble getting the ball working to the left pins and consequently left myself a lot of long putts on those holes."
That threesome was among the early players who had to deal with a rain storm that arrived midway through the second round. "The front nine was tough; I think it was tough for everybody," said Rose, the winner at Merion in mid-June. "It was raining pretty hard at times. At the turn, 17, 18, coming into the turn, those two holes were playing incredibly difficult. (The par-4) 17 wasn't even reachable.
"At that point I just felt like I was trying to hang on, just not try and shoot way over par really. The rain did stop at the turn and I put on a fresh glove, and got the waterproofs off and kind of felt like you could start to play some golf instead of just trying to survive. Obviously, I got hot and kept rolling with it. Adam played some great golf the last couple of days and showed me that this course is playable and you can make some birdies out there. And when I got hot, I stayed with it, which was nice."
Tied for 13th at 137 are Spain's Sergio Garcia (68) and American Roberto Castro (69), while another stroke back in 15th are Americans Scott Piercy (71), Hunter Mahan (68), Rickie Fowler (68) and Bill Haas (70), Australian Jason Day (71), Englishman David Lynn (69) and Sweden's Jonas Blixt (70).
Defending champion Rory McIlroy had a 71 to reach even-par 140 and is now nine behind Dufner. Starting on the 10th hole, the 24-year-old McIlroy got off to a rocky start with three bogeys, a double at the par-3 15th and one birdie to make the turn in 4-over 39. After another bogey on his 10th hole, he reeled off four birdies the rest of the way to rescue what could have been a disastrous outing.
"I'm obviously standing up pretty happy about the day," said McIlroy, who closed with a 66 last year at Kiawah Island en route to setting an all-time PGA victory margin of victory of eight strokes. "Had a nice finish to the round, was letting the round get away from me somewhat, but making four birdies on the last eight holes was nice to sort of redeem the round a little bit and keep myself in the tournament. Pretty happy and just looking forward to the weekend."
The 36-hole cut was set at 3-over 143. Among those heading home are major winners Bubba Watson (74), Charl Schwartzel (73), Paul Lawrie (72), Davis Love III (70), Rich Beem (74), Ernie Els (72), Y.E. Yang (74), Stewart Cink (71), Padraig Harrington (71), Geoff Ogilvy (74), Tom Watson (77) and Lucas Glover (76).
Shaun Micheel, who won the last time the PGA Championship was held at Oak Hill in 2003, posted his second straight 76 to also not make it to the weekend.
Missing the cut by a stroke was Woody Austin, who was assessed a four-stroke penalty when he discovered he had 15 clubs in his bag. After declaring the club - a 21-degree driving iron - out of play, he reported the mistake to a rules official on the third hole. Under rule 4-4, the penalty for exceeding the 14-club limit is two strokes per hole where the breach occurred, to a maximum of four strokes.
So instead of starting Friday with a par and a bogey, the 49-year-old - who got his first win in six years at last month's Sanderson Farms Championship - had to take a double-bogey and a triple.
After opening with a 69, Austin shot a 75 Friday. "I can't say I was angry," Austin told reporters. "It was more shock. Pretty bummed and just disappointed in myself that I was that stupid."
As for his caddie's involvement, Austin didn't point any fingers, noting, "(He didn't say) a whole lot, but it's not his fault. It's my fault as much as his fault. It's both our jobs. It's just one of those things, if it wasn't raining, we would have caught it. But you've got the rain cover over everything and you're worrying about the towels and whatever, so you don't see it.
"But if we would have been on the first tee on a normal day, clubs sitting there, you would have seen it. It's such a bulky club, you wouldn't have missed it. It doesn't have a head cover on it or anything. We would have caught it immediately. But the fact that you have got your clubs completely covered, I never saw it until I dug in there for the 3 iron on No. 3, and there it was."
Angel Cabrera became the third player to withdraw from the PGA Championship. Cabrera said his left wrist was injured and pulled out after playing 12 holes Friday. The Argentine joined Welshman Jamie Donaldson (back injury) and American Bo Van Pelt (hip) on the sidelines. All three opened with 10-over 80s.
For complete scoring details, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/pga-championship/leaderboard.html.