Jason Dufner won golf’s PGA Championship by two strokes for his first major title, two years after he lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley at the same tournament.
Dufner overcame a one-shot deficit to third-round leader Jim Furyk to win at Oak Hill Country Club outside of Rochester, New York. Dufner shot a 2-under-par 68 today to finish with a four-round total of 10-under 273, two better than Furyk, who closed with a 71. Both players bogeyed the last two holes.
Dufner, a 36-year-old Ohio native, becomes the 19th different player to win one of golf’s four annual Grand Slam events in the past 21 tournaments, including Adam Scott at this year’s Masters Tournament and Justin Rose in the U.S. Open.
“To come back from a couple years ago when I lost to Keegan feels really, really good,” Dufner said during the trophy presentation. “It’s a great feeling to actually win one of these now. It’s a big step in my career.”
Henrik Stenson of Sweden placed third at 7 under, continuing a monthlong run in which he’s finished third at the Scottish Open and runner-up at both the British Open and World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
Jonas Blixt, also of Sweden, finished 6 under in his second major appearance, one shot ahead of Scott Piercy of the U.S. and Australia’s Scott, who closed with an even-par 70.
David Toms, the 2001 PGA champion, was seventh at 4-under par, while 2012 winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland finished at 3 under with Jason Day of Australia and Americans Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson.
Dufner’s victory caps an unheralded rise to the top of golf for one of the most outwardly emotionless players. He raised his arms in the air after tapping in his final putt at the 18th hole, yet didn’t break out into a smile until he hugged his wife just off the 18th green.
Dufner didn’t start playing the game until age 15 and earned a spot on the Auburn University golf team as a non-scholarship player. He was runner-up to 2008 Masters winner Trevor Immelman in the 1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and advanced to the PGA Tour after several years on the minor professional circuits.
Two years ago at the PGA, Dufner surrendered a five-shot lead with four holes to play at Atlanta Athletic Club and lost to Bradley, who was making his first major tournament appearance, in a three-hole playoff. Bradley was one of the first people to congratulate Dufner today, wrapping him in an embrace off the 18th hole.
While Dufner won twice on the PGA Tour in 2012, he gained a measure of fame this March when a local television reporter snapped a picture of him at the Byron Nelson Championship during a charity appearance at the J. Erik Jonsson Community School in Dallas.
With tousled hair and wearing a red golf shirt, black pants and black shoes, an expressionless Dufner was slumped against a wall alongside a group of young children. Staring aimlessly across the room, Dufner’s hands were tucked under his thighs.
After Bradley posted the photo on social media website Twitter, “Dufnering” was born. Fellow golfers, athletes and fans began posting their own versions of the pose, with PGA of America President Ted Bishop doing it this week.
Dufner’s victory at Oak Hill included a 7-under 63 in the second round, which set the professional course record. His score bettered the mark of 64 set by Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange and Webb Simpson, who had tied the mark the same day, and matched the lowest total shot in a major.
Dufner closed his final round with back-to-back bogeys, yet he also had three birdie putts shorter than two feet.
After a birdie at the par-5 fourth hole tied him with Furyk, Dufner spun his approach shot to within about 18 inches of the cup at the par-4 fifth hole to set up a birdie that gave him the outright lead at 10-under par.
Furyk answered with a birdie putt of about 35 feet on the par-3 sixth hole, regaining a share of the lead, before Dufner stuck his approach to six inches at the eighth for another tap-in birdie. When Furyk missed a 12-foot par attempt at the ninth hole, Dufner’s lead grew to two shots.
Stenson was briefly within two shots on the closing stretch, getting to 9 under with a birdie on the par-5 13th, before two bogeys in a four-hole stretch.
Dufner moved to 12-under par with another birdie at the par-4 16th hole, where his second shot drew back to within two feet of the flag. Furyk rolled in a birdie putt of about 12 feet to match him and stay within two.
Both players bogeyed the 17th hole; Furyk after coming up short of the green on a pitch from the rough and Dufner after three-putting from about 60 feet. They also bogeyed the par-4 18th after coming up short of the green, with Dufner two-putting from about 15 feet to seal the win.
“I played my heart out,” said Furyk, who was seeking to join Tiger Woods and McIlroy as the only active players with U.S. Open and PGA Championship wins during their careers. “No regrets over it.”
Woods remains winless in his past 18 major tournaments after finishing tied for 40th at 4 over. He shot a final-round 70, the eighth straight round at par or worse in two PGA Championship appearances at Oak Hill.
“It’s always frustrating going out there and I’m grinding my tail off coming in just to shoot even par for the day,” Woods said. “And I’m nowhere in it. That’s tough.”
British Open champion Phil Mickelson finished 12-over par for the tournament after a final-round 2-over-par 72, his fourth straight round over par.