JASON DUFNER ALMOST produced a flawless round of golf on his way to claiming his first major victory in the USPGA Championship at Oak Hill.
The 36-year-old American, who squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play in losing the 2011 PGA Championship, fired a final-round two-under par 68 to finish on 10-under par 270 for 72 holes.
“It’s a great feeling to finally win one,” Dufner said. “I can’t believe this is happening to me. It feels really, really good. It’s amazing to me this actually happened to me.”
Dufner won the Wanamaker Trophy and the top prize of $1.445 million from the $8 million event with the lowest 72-hole major-winning score at Oak Hill, breaking the mark of 274 set by Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 PGA Championship.
“The last two holes were unforgettable,” Dufner said. “I wish I could have closed it out with no bogeys but I was glad to get the job done.”
Furyk, the 2003 US Open champion, was second on 272 after a final round 71, making bogeys on the last two holes, which have played the hardest of any at Oak Hill this week.
“I needed to keep the pedal down and make pars there and keep the pressure on him and I just didn’t do it,” said Furyk.
“If I could go back I would have to try and make par at 17 and 18 and try and put some heat on him.”
Because he couldn’t, Dufner was able to win with bogeys at 17 and 18 after 26 holes in a row without a bogey.
Furyk, who has not won any title since the 2010 US PGA Tour Championship, began the day with a one-stroke lead but failed to win just as he did four times when leading after 54 holes last year, including at the US Open.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was third on 273 with countryman Jonas Blixt fourth on 274 after each shot 70 in the final round. Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia and American Scott Piercy shared fifth on 275. Scott fired a 70 while Piercy shot 65.
Dufner began the back nine at 11-under after birdies at the fourth, fifth and eighth holes and a seven-foot par save at the ninth. An 18-inch par putt just curled into right edge of the hole at the 10th, a hint of the pressure contained behind his stoic face.
Furyk, with equally calm demeanour, birdied the par-3 sixth and took a bogey at the ninth, but then matched Dufner par for par on the back nine.
Furyk made a six-foot par at the par-3 15th but Dufner topped him from half the distance and led by two shots with three holes to play.
At the 16th, Dufner put his approach inches from the cup for a tap-in birdie but Furyk curled in a 10-foot birdie putt of his own to remain two back with two to play.
Furyk put his approach into the rough at 17 while Dufner was safely on the far side of the green from the pin. Dufner rolled his long putt three feet past the cup but Furyk found the rough just off the green with his third shot and chipped just past the hole, tapping in for a bogey.
Dufner missed his three-foot par putt but still led Furyk by two shots with one hole to play.
At the final hole, Furyk found the rough off the tee and on his approach while Dufner’s second shot came up short of the green in the thick grass.
Furyk blasted out, missed a 30-foot par putt and tapped in for bogey. Dufner chipped out to 15 feet and two-putted for the victory.
Stenson and Blixt, each hoping to become the first Swedish man to win a major, stayed within reach but could never catch Dufner, both making bogeys at 17 to end their dwindling hopes.
South Africa’s Tim Clark aced the 220-yard par-3 11th hole with a 3-hybrid, the third hole-in-one of his career and the first in a PGA Championship since 2010.
Open Champion Phil Mickelson stumbled to a 72 and a 12-over 292 finish while world number one Tiger Woods fired a 70 to finish on 284 for a share of 40th, matching last year’s Masters for the worst 72-hole major finish of his professional career.
Rory McIlroy showed glimpses of the form which delivered the Wanamaker trophy a year ago and stood an outside chance of challenging Dufner going into the final day. However, that hope was all but extinguished with a triple bogey on the fifth hole.
It would take him eight holes to mend the damage, but another bogey was to come and the Down man ended the day tied for eighth with a level par 70. -3 overall, one stroke ahead of Graeme McDowell.