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Dufner Rules at Oak Hill
Jason Dufner closed with an often-spectacular but ultimately steady 2-under 68 to win his first major title, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
The 36-year-old Ohioan, who lost in a playoff in the PGA two years ago to Keegan Bradley at Atlanta Athletic Club, finished at 10-under 270, two strokes ahead of 54-hole leader Jim Furyk, who closed with a 71.
Dufner became the 19th different winner in the past 21 majors; only defending PGA champion Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson won twice during that period. "It's been a tough day, a long day, a tough golf course," a relieved Dufner said at greenside before accepting the Wanamaker Trophy.
"I still can't believe this is happening to me. To come back from a couple of years ago in this championship when I lost to Keegan in a playoff and win feels really, really good."
As for the difference in his mental approach from this year and 2011, when he blew a five-stroke lead with four holes to play and lost to Bradley in a three-hole aggregate playoff, Dufner said, "I decided I was going to be confident and put my best foot forward and play aggressive and try to win this thing. I wasn't going to play scared or soft. It's a big step for my career."
After going 4-under through 16 holes thanks to four birdies, Dufner dropped his only two shots of the day on the 17th and 18th, long and tough par-4s. On the closing hole both he and Furyk put their drives in the first cut of rough on the right-hand side of the fairway. From 200 yards out, Furyk, two strokes down to Dufner and needing a birdie along with a mistake by his playing partner in the final group, pulled his approach into deep rough left of the green.
Dufner hit what looked to be a fine second from 171 yards, but it came up short of the green and stopped on the steep, deep-grass incline in front of the putting surface. From a horrible lie, Furyk came up just short with his third, then pitched past the hole and two-putted from there for his second bogey in a row.
Dufner hit a nice flop shot to 12 feet, and two-putted for the winning bogey. The usually emotionless player let out a big sigh, raised his arms to wild cheering from the gallery, and walked to the scoring tent, stopping long enough to embrace his wife Amanda and, shortly after, hugging Bradley, who was waiting for him.
The veteran Furyk, who entered the final round a stroke ahead of Dufner, wasn't too disappointed with his performance. "I played a solid round of golf, I feel I was really striking the ball well on the back nine," the 16-time Tour winner and 2003 U.S. Open champion said at greenside. "Didn't think I did anything wrong on 17 and 18. I was actually proud I was able to get it up on the green on 18."
The two Swedes in the penultimate group, Henrik Stenson and Jonas Blixt, both shot even-par 70s to end up in third and fourth, respectively.
Scott Piercy carded the low final round - a 5-under 65 - to rise up the leaderboard into a tie for fifth at 275 with Australia's Adam Scott. The 2013 Masters champion had a 70.
Piercy had it going for much of Sunday. After a bogey on the par-4 second, the 34-year-old from Las Vegas reeled off five birdies to make the turn in 4-under 31, then tacked on two more on Nos. 11 and 13. After a bogey on the par-3 15th, he birdied the next but closed with a bogey on the last.
Piercy knew he'd have to go very low to have any chance of catching the leaders. "It's funny, I tweeted last night I'm thinking 62," he told PGATour.com. "With the birdie putt on 14 to get to 7 (-under), I was right on pace. Hit a bad putt there, then came back on 16 and made a birdie."
Alone in seventh at 276 was 46-year-old David Toms. The 2001 PGA champion finished with a 67. Another stroke back were Australia's Jason Day (67) and Americans Zach Johnson (67) and Dustin Johnson (69); Zach and Dustin are not related. Also at that number was defending PGA champion McIlroy, who closed with a 70 that involved four birdies, a triple at the par-4 fifth and a bogey on the 16th.
McIlroy's fellow Ulsterman, Graeme McDowell, carded a wild, eight-birdie-four-bogey 66 to rise into a tie for 12th at 278 with Australia's Marc Leishman (68), Scotland's Marc Warren (69) and Americans Boo Weekley (67), Roberto Castro (70), Kevin Streelman (70) and Steve Stricker (73).
Bradley fired a 66 to finish T-19 at 279 with Rickie Fowler (69) and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (66). After falling from contention with a 76 Saturday, Matt Kuchar carded a 71 for a share of 22nd at even-par 280 with Michael Thompson and England's David Lynn, who both shot 71s.
Other than Dufner's heroics, the shot of the day came from Tim Clark, who carded the only ace of the PGA Championship when he hit a 3-hybrid on the 220-yard 11th hole that landed on the green, took off rolling and clunked into the cup.
U.S. Open winner Justin Rose rebounded from third-round 77 with a 72 to end up in 33rd at 3-over 283. The year's other major winner, British Open champion Phil Mickelson, opened with two straight 71s but shot 78 and 72 over the weekend to end up tied for 72nd at 12-over 292.
"I didn't play very well the last two weeks," said Mickelson, who finished T21 in last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 16 shots behind winner Tiger Woods. "I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to go home and take a few days off and just kind of forget these last couple weeks where I haven't struck it the way I have for a few months."
No. 1-ranked Woods shot his second even-par 70, which accompanied a 71 and 73 in the championship, to finish tied for 40th at 284. Woods won at Firestone by seven shots, but admitted later that his game was off at Oak Hill.
"I put in four good rounds last week," said Woods, who'll be seeking his elusive 15th major title in next year's Masters. "Didn't seem to hit it as good and didn't make many putts until the last few holes today. I didn't give myself many looks and certainly didn't hit the ball good enough to be in it."
The 2011 British Open champion at Royal St. George's in England, Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, got progressively worse as the PGA went on. After starting with a 69, the 44-year-old posted rounds of 73, 74 and 80 to end up in last place.
For all the scores, visit http://www.majorschampionships.com/pga-championship/leaderboard.html.
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