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Dufner dominates to earn PGA redemption

America’s Jason Dufner has clinched the USPGA Championship and his first major, firing a Sunday 68 to beat compatriot Jim Furyk.

The two shot winning margin was secured despite carding bogeys at his final two holes, and ensured redemption for his playoff loss to Keegan Bradley in 2011.

“To come back from a couple of years ago in this championship when I lost to Keegan [Bradley] in the playoff, and win – it feels really, really good,” said Dufner.

“I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

Playing in the final pairing and trailing by one stroke going into the final day at Oak Hill Country Club, Dufner was on track for a 66 when he made birdie at the 16th, but two late bogeys halted his clean run.

It mattered little however, as Furyk also bogeyed 17 and 18 to finish at -8 with a Sunday 71.

“The last two holes were a little unfortunate. I wish I could’ve closed out with no bogeys,” Dufner said.

Jim Furyk made only two birdies on Sunday – the first of which came at the sixth to tie Dufner after surrendering the lead at the fifth.

But a bogey at the ninth lost him the lead again during what he described as an “awkward” outward nine.

“I felt like I struck the ball really well on the back nine,” said Furyk.

“I don’t really feel like I did anything wrong on 17 and 18.

“I played a solid round of golf.”

It’s not the first time in recent memory Furyk has blown a 54-hole lead at a major.

He held the lead going into Sunday in the 2012 US Open at Olympic Club, before finishing in a tie for fourth.

For Dufner, he was at his unflappable best on Sunday, needing just eleven putts in his first nine holes, which included back-to-back birdies on four and five to take the lead outright.

“I decided that I was going to be confident, and really put my best foot forward and play aggressive and try to win this thing,” Dufner said.

“I wasn’t going to, you know, play scared or soft.”

It had been his putting that had been his downfall, however on Sunday his work on the greens was superb. W

hen he tapped in for the win at the last, it was classic Dufner.

Even with the occasion, he showed little emotion – merely a controlled double fist pump.

His shot making was exquisite all day, playing many shots past the hole and sucking them back close to the hole locations in relatively soft Oak Hill conditions.

The cushion he had built for himself was enhanced by a birdie at the 16th, allowing for “unfortunate” blemishes on the difficult 17th and 18th.

Dufner, who won twice inside a month on the PGA Tour last season, has been average at best in 2013.

However, the win this morning now makes him one of the year’s best performers.

Three Australians finished inside the top 15, with Adam Scott leading the way with another strong finish at a major.

He was tied for fifth, while Jason Day fired a 67 on Sunday to sneak inside the top 10 and finish tied for 8th alongside defending champion Rory McIlroy.

Marc Leishman shot 68 to finish in a tie for 12th.

The biggest surprises of the week were the world’s top two players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Woods shot 70 on the final day to be +4, while Mickelson shot a 72 to finish 72nd at +12.

With the year’s final major in the books, players will set their sights on the PGA Tour playoffs, which begin in two weeks time.

This week’s Wyndham Championship will be the last chance for players on the verge to play their way into the top 125 and a place in The Barclays in New Jersey.

 

Twitter: @pepcavalieri

Cover image credit: Keith Allison/Flickr

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