Jason Dufner may have left that putt for a major championship-record 62 in Friday’s second round short, but Sunday, despite a few nervous moments, there was little but the bottom of the cup as the stoic runner-up to Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship hoisted his own Wanamaker Trophy.
Dufner shot a final-round 2-under 68 to get to 10-under for the tournament and defeat Jim Furyk by two shots at Oak Hill.
Dufner began Sunday’s finale at 8-under, a shot behind 54-hole leader and playing partner Furyk. Going nose-to-nose with the 43-year-old Furyk, Dufner, 36, evened the score with a birdie on the par-5 fourth hole. For the first time since the middle of Saturday’s third round, he took the lead with a tap-in birdie on the par-4 fifth.
Furyk came right back with a huge, up-and-over putt from downtown for his first birdie of the day on the par-3 sixth, to get back to all-square, but then Dufner nearly holed his approach shot on No. 8. The inspiration for the Internet "Dufnering" craze poured in his gimme putt on top of Furyk’s par, leaving behind him the nerves that he conceded affected similar strokes earlier in the tourney.
Almost in the rearview mirror was Dufner’s 2011 meltdown at the Atlanta Athletic Club, when his tee shot into the water on No. 15 led to three consecutive bogeys and his loss to Bradley in a playoff.
Furyk made his first bogey of the day on the par-4 ninth and fell to two behind after Dufner calmly (does Jason do anything any other way?) rolled his ball in for another clutch par. Another dart from Dufner at No. 10 yielded a disappointing, wobbly par putt that did a victory lap around the cup instead of a seventh straight one-putt birdie.
Cue the TV guys recalling Dufner’s collapse down the stretch two years ago.
With the talk about Atlanta heavy in the air, Dufner knocked another tee shot close on the par-3 11th, but a tentative stroke left his 10-foot birdie putt short and he had to settle for a kick-in par.
"I don't think there is a guy out here when you are playing in these major championships that doesn't feel the pressure," Dufner told reporters after carding a 71 in Saturday's third round. "You want to play well. There is a lot at stake to play well. There is a lot of pressure."
When Dufner’s birdie putt on 12 slid by the hole, he left an opening for Furyk. The 2003 U.S. Open winner could not convert for birdie, however, and he slapped his thigh in frustration several times on his way, still two shots back, to the 13th tee.
In the meantime, Henrik Stenson was making a game of it, tying Furyk at 9-under after a birdie at the par-5 13th. His momentum came to a screeching halt, however, after his tee shot found a divot in front of the 14th green and, needing a delicate pitch shot to the flag at the front, dumped his ball a few feet into the bunker.
Just like that, Stenson flew the cup and two-putted for bogey to dip to 8-under to match his Swedish countryman Jonas Blixt, who made his own charge after back-to-back birdies on holes No. 13 and 14.
In the meantime, Dufner moved to the 15th, where his 2011 downfall began. With the pin hugging the right side of the green, some four yards from the edge and with a lake just beyond it, Dufner played it safe, landing his ball about pin high but on the far left fringe some 35 yards away.
After a metal wood chip shot left him a short one and Furyk made his par, Dufner stuffed his par putt and moved to the 16th retaining a two-shot advantage. Another bullet at the pin set up as stress-free a birdie as one could want under the circumstances, which included a birdie from Furyk, and butterflies came into play with a shaky bogey (his first in 26 holes) that matched Furyk's five on the par-4 17th.
A so-so tee shot into the rough on 18 led to an approach that came up six feet short. But with Furyk also short and buried in the thick rough and finishing with a bogey, Dufner wrapped up the Wanamaker with two putts at the last.