For the second time in three years, Jason Dufner held a comfortable lead on the back nine in the final round of the PGA Championship. This time he didn't choke.
Dufner used magnificent ball-striking to fire a two-under 68 on Sunday at the Oak Hill Country Club and finished the tournament at 10 under par on the difficult par-70 course. This left him two shots clear of second-place finisher Jim Furyk, who was one shot better than third-place finisher Henrik Stenson.
To earn his maiden major championship, Dufner had to rebound from his worst round of the tournament:
Dufner's third round meant he had to overcome a one-stroke deficit to 54-hole leader Furyk on Day 4.
While taking a lead into the final round of a tournament is a desirable place to be, it hasn't worked out so well this year:
Making this Sunday at the PGA Championship great theater is the fact that Furyk did not lose his lead as much as Dufner took it.
Furyk struggled with his driving accuracy early, but he kept himself in contention with his putter, and he moved to 10 under when he drilled this epic putt on No. 6:
However, that only pushed him into a tie with Dufner, who birdied holes Nos. 4 and 5. He kept that hot hand rolling when the 36-year-old Cleveland native went pin-seeking on No. 8:
The spin control and line on that shot were obviously superb, but it wasn't that much better than most of Dufner's approach shots on the day. He was firing laser-guided darts at the pins on almost every approach.
Meanwhile, Furyk suffered a bogey on No. 9.
All of this helped Dufner take a lead to the turn, and it was his tournament to lose. However, this tweet was still getting a little ahead of itself:
For starters, I don't care how many majors Dufner wins, Dufnering will always have a special spot in the hearts of meme enthusiasts:
But, even more importantly, it was just two years ago when Dufner led this very tournament by five strokes while standing on the 15th tee on the final day.
In 2011, Dufner went on to bogey the 15th, 16th and 17th holes while Keegan Bradley chased him down and eventually won in a playoff. There would be no wavering from Dufner on this day, however.
On the exterior, Dufner looks completely unflappable. Yet that doesn't mean he isn't splintered nerves on the inside. We can see evidence of that in his 2011 collapse and in this quote passed along by the athletics director of Dufner's former college, Auburn:
It also showed up while he looked a little shaky on some short putts, including a miss that led to a bogey on No. 17. His ball-striking was too dominant to allow that to derail him.
Dufner took a two-stroke lead into the final hole and played it safely, and Furyk had no heroics on the difficult closing hole to catch him.
While Dufner hit an ample amount of fantastic shots on Sunday, he still couldn't trump his beauty from Round 2 when he holed out on the second for an eagle:
That shot helped pave the way to Dufner firing a scintillating 63 in the second round, and it would have been nearly impossible to predict that the two strokes he gained on the course there would make up his winning margin and first major championship—which has become commonplace at this tournament:
Meanwhile, the folks on Twitter noticed Dufner's big win:
Congratulations to Jason Christopher Dufner for a fabulous tournament and well-deserved major championship!