PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Jason Dufner’s deadpan expression reflects nothing to the outside world. It didn’t indicate how disheartened he was at losing the PGA Championship in a playoff two years ago, nor did it show his excitement and nerves while he was battling to get over the hump in the same major on Sunday.
In fact, that appearance barely changed after he tapped in his final putt on the 18th hole at Oak Hill Country Club. But he raised his arms and that told it all, a triumphant gesture that celebrated his 2-stroke victory in the year’s final major.
The 36-year-old Dufner played the round of a lifetime. He struck approach shots to within a foot on three holes and closed with a 2-under-par 68, overtaking 54-hole leader Jim Furyk to win the Wanamaker Trophy.
It was a much better ending than two years ago in Atlanta, where Dufner blew a 4-stroke lead on the back nine and wound up losing to Keegan Bradley in a playoff.
“I’ve had leads in majors and not pulled through,” he said. “I always felt like that was going to make me a better player and more confident the next time that I had a chance. And for whatever reason today, I felt really comfortable, really calm and felt like that I could do it, felt like I could give myself a chance and pull this out.”
He did admit to a bit of nerves early, particularly with his first three-foot putt on the opening hole. He also nearly blew a tap-in at the 10th, the ball going in the side door.
“I come across as a pretty cool customer, I guess,” he said, “but there are definitely some nerves out there, especially when you’re trying to win a major championship.”
The final 18 was basically a two-man race between Dufner and Furyk, who was seeking his first major title since the 2003 U.S. Open. Furyk entered with a 1-stroke lead, but Dufner drained three birdie putts — two of them, at No. 5 and No. 8, from tap-in range — to take the lead for good.
Dufner stiffed another approach shot at the par-4 16th to offset a birdie by Furyk and maintain a 2-stroke lead into the final two holes. Furyk bogeyed those last two holes and Dufner sailed home.
He said he wanted to stay patient but he then decided to be aggressive since he was striking the ball so well.
“I went for the par-5 fourth hole and made birdie there,” he said. “The fifth hole was a pretty tough pin and I went right at it and stuffed it. It was a little bit of a combination — I knew that I had to stay patient but I felt like I was hitting it pretty good and I hit a lot of shots close there, which made it easy for me. Not too much pressure on the putter today.”
Furyk shot a 71 and took second at 272, his fourth runner-up finish in a major. Henrik Stenson made a couple of runs but bogeyed two holes down the stretch for a 70 and third place at 273, a stroke ahead of Swedish countryman Jonas Blixt (70).
Furyk said he respected Dufner’s performance.
“When a tournament ends like that, you’ve just got to take your hat off and shake the guy’s hand,” he said. “Basically I told him I was really impressed with how well he played. He played his rear end off and won the tournament.”
When it was over and he had hugged his wife, Amanda, Dufner encountered Bradley behind the 18th green and “we kind of bro-hugged,” he said.
“He said, ‘I’m proud of you’ and I said, ‘Thanks a lot, it means a lot for you to be here,’ “ Dufner said. “He always jabbed at me a little bit about having one of these [trophies] in his house and thanks for giving it to him and all that stuff. And now I’ve got one, too.”
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