Jason Dufner added his name to golf's record books on Friday at the 2013 PGA Championship, matching the lowest round, 63, in golf's major championship history.
Dufner was flawless through his second tour of Oak Hill, a classic American course that's been made vulnerable by significant rain over the past two days. The greens were soft and receptive, yielding birdies in bunches and lots of numbers in the mid-60s. Dufner, however, went lower than anyone ever has with steady play from tee-to-green and then a hot putter that converted almost every birdie chance he encountered.
The pressure of breaking 63 has been felt by a multitude of players through the years, with each and every threat coming up short on the final holes. Dufner had two quality birdie chances on Oak Hill's last two holes, but each putt missed the mark and he had to settle for tap-in pars. On No. 17, which is playing as the hardest hole this week, Dufner just burned the edge, and then on No. 18, another monster par-4, he left a 15-footer short. The record-setting putt never had a chance, and Dufner tapped in his par to be come the 24th player to shoot 63.
It was the third time in two days that we were put on "62 watch," as Adam Scott threatened Thursday following a five-hole birdie streak, and then Webb Simpson made a serious run at the majors record Friday morning. Simpson ended up matching the Oak Hill competitive course record with a round of 64, joining Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange. That course record, however, would only hold up a matter of hours until Dufner came through in the afternoon to go one better.
There had been 25 rounds of 63 previously shot, with 11 of them coming at the PGA. The most recent round of 63 was fired by Dufner's playing partner on Friday, Steve Stricker, who went low at the PGA in 2011. Johnny Miller holds the title of most amazing round of 63, of which he will repeatedly remind you during NBC broadcasts. Miller put together his historic 63 at Oakmont in U.S. Open conditions in 1973.
Dufner's round started with the shot of the day on No. 2, as short par-4 with a gettable pin thanks to the soft greens. Duf sent his approach shot some 30 feet past the pin, spinning it back down to the hole for the eagle and an instant jolt at the top of his round:
The PGA of America obviously doesn't hold par so sacred like the USGA, setting up courses that give the best in the world chances at birdie. And Dufner piled them up on Friday, turning in this remarkable card:
Dufner is considered one of the best ball strikers in golf. His ball rarely ever ends up off the grid, keeping it between the trees, generally in the fairway, and then sticking it on top of the flagstick with his irons. It's the defining characteristic of his game, and one that pushed him to the top of the world rankings during a multi-win season last year. It also produced his steady play at the Ryder Cup. The conditions at Oak Hill played right into his strength on Friday, and he torched it with his tee-to-green game.
This is the championship where Dufner really became a national name in USA golf. He held a five-shot lead over Keegan Bradley with four holes to play in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but imploded down the stretch and lost to Bradley in a playoff. Since that misery, he's become one of the best and most consistent players in the world and lit it up last year on the Tour. This season has been more of a struggle, but he's still got the ability to go low and win every tournament he enters. At 9-under, he's on top and in position to make amends for 2011 this weekend.