Dufner, who lost the 2011 PGA Championship in a playoff, shot a 7-under-par 63 yesterday at Oak Hill Country Club outside Rochester, New York, and is now 9 under par through 36 holes. He’s two shots ahead of Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia and fellow Americans Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar.
Dufner, 36, came up about a foot short on a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole that would have given him the first 62 in major championship history. Dufner said afterward his nerves caught up with him, as he settled for the 26th round of 63 in one of the sport’s four major championships.
“To join history, to shoot a 63 in a major is pretty unbelievable, and to be leading the tournament, even better,” Dufner said at his post-round news conference. “Hopefully it will propel me to a great weekend.”
Dufner made an eagle on his second hole yesterday, holing his approach shot from 105 yards, and added five birdies.
Dufner’s 63 is the first since Steve Stricker during the first round of the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. He’s the 12th player to post a score of 63 at the PGA Championship, the last of the four annual majors, and was congratulated by Stricker, his playing partner, as he signed his official card in the scoring trailer.
“To be part of that history is really a neat accomplishment,” said Dufner, who also broke the professional tournament course record of 64 shared by Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange and Webb Simpson, who did it earlier yesterday.
There are 10 players within five strokes of Dufner entering today’s third round, though four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods and British Open champion Phil Mickelson aren’t among them. Woods, winless in his past 17 major championship starts, is 1 over and tied for 38th, while Mickelson is a stroke further back after consecutive rounds of 71.
“I’m so far back that if the leaders go ahead and run off with it and shoot a low one, I’m going to be pretty far behind,” said Woods, who has a third-round tee time of 11:05 a.m. New York time. “I have got to do my job and go out there and post something in the mid to low 60s.”
There are a total of 27 players under par through two rounds and 75 players made the cut for weekend play by shooting 3 over par or better.
Dufner’s total score of 131 through two rounds matches the 36-hole scoring record at the PGA Championship, set most recently by David Toms and Shingo Katayama in 2001. Others at 131 midway through the championship were Hal Sutton in 1983, Vijay Singh in 1993, and Ernie Els and Mark O’Meara in 1995. Only Sutton and Toms went on to win.
“What’s happened in the past with me in majors is in the past,” said Dufner, who blew a five-shot lead with four holes to play at the 2011 PGA Championship before losing to Keegan Bradley in a playoff. “I’m still trying to chase it, still trying to learn from the mistakes that I made in prior majors, and I’m excited that I’m in the lead. I’m looking forward to a good weekend and maybe closing one of these out.”
Dufner will tee off today with Scott at 2:55 p.m., while Furyk and Kuchar are in the next-to-last pairing.
Kuchar had gotten to 8 under par yesterday before making a bogey at the 18th hole for a round of 66.
Scott, who in April became the first Australian to win the Masters Tournament, shot a 2-under-par 68 while playing much of his morning round in a steady rain. Furyk joined Kuchar and Scott at 7 under after shooting 68 yesterday.
Justin Rose of England, the U.S. Open champion, birdied his final two holes for a 66 that left him 6 under. Henrik Stenson of Sweden is also 6 under, one shot better than Stricker and Robert Garrigus of the U.S.
Woody Austin missed the cut by one stroke after receiving a four-stroke penalty yesterday for exceeding the 14-club limit.
Austin didn’t discover he had an extra 3-iron in his bag until he was on the third hole and was penalized two strokes on both the first and second holes, leading to a 75.
Among other players who failed to qualify for the weekend were Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Luke Donald, Ernie Els and Shaun Micheel, who won the PGA Championship the last time it was held at Oak Hill in 2003.
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