Jason Dufner needed a playoff to get it done, but he captured his first title of 2016, winning the CareerBuilder Challenge on Sunday at the TPC Stadium Course in La Quinta, California.
Dufner and David Lingmerth were tied at 25 under after 72 holes, and they failed to break the deadlock on the first playoff hole. Dufner finally opened up daylight on the second playoff hole, sinking his par putt for the victory. You can see the full leaderboard below:
With his victory, Dufner will earn a little more than $1 million. The payouts for the top 10 finishers are below, courtesy of ESPN.com:
|CareerBuilder Challenge Payouts—Top 10|
|T9||Si Woo Kim||-19||$162,400|
Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Wei offered a great representation of Dufner's stoic demeanor after he won the tournament:
Stephanie Wei @StephanieWei
Dufner reaction. So emotional. https://t.co/61ScVXpqlt2016-1-25 01:00:15
Golf Channel shared his post-tournament thoughts:
Golf Channel @GolfChannel
"I'm happy to be playing good golf again" - Jason Dufner, your 2016 #CareerBuilderChallenge champion. https://t.co/3MDPs9pfIa2016-1-25 00:58:08
This CareerBuilder Challenge was largely Dufner's to lose heading into the final day. He owned a two-stroke lead after three rounds, and the combination of Jamie Lovemark and Adam Hadwin—the only golfers within five shots of Dufner heading into Sunday—collectively finished one over for the final round.
Lovemark mounted his challenge early in the final round. Following a birdie on No. 5, he earned a share of the lead. His approach shot from the rough on the fifth hole was one of the better shots of the day. The PGA Tour provided a highlight of the impressive approach and subsequent birdie putt:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Jamie Lovemark shares the lead with Jason Dufner. Here's how he got there. #QuickHits https://t.co/KO9LI4c25q2016-1-24 20:56:35
Lovemark started falling off as the day went on. He double-bogeyed the seventh, 10th and 13th holes, which all but eliminated him from contention.
Hadwin's Sunday had a similar arc. With a birdie on No. 9, his third through the first nine holes, he tied Dufner for the lead. On the back nine, Hadwin failed to keep pace with Dufner and Lingmerth and eventually fell out of contention.
If he had closed Round 4 at least three shots under par, Dufner would have secured the title. Instead, he made things difficult.
Things started going badly on the front nine, as he failed to card a single birdie. Golf Channel researcher Justin Ray highlighted how much those struggles ran counter to Dufner's earlier performance:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Jason Dufner had 26 birdies through 3 rounds, 5 more than anyone else in the field. 0 on front 9 today.2016-1-24 21:53:56
Dufner regrouped heading onto the back nine, birdieing the 10th, 11th and 12th holes before the streak ended with a bogey on No. 13. His momentum quickly stalled, which put Lingmerth in the driver's seat.
But then Dufner birdied No. 16 and subsequently delivered the shot of the tournament on the 17th hole. With the ball nestled in the rocks bordering the 17th green, the 2013 PGA Championship winner nearly found the bottom of the cup. He had to settle for a par on the hole, which meant he still owned a share of the lead. The PGA Tour offered a good look at the unbelievable chip:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
JASON DUFNER! #QuickHits https://t.co/r8LZUSUG052016-1-24 23:59:15
Lingmerth did everything he could to topple Dufner. His seven-under 65 tied for the lowest score of the round, and he closed with four birdies on the back nine.
The 28-year-old Swede picked the worst time to make his biggest mistake of the tournament, though. On the second playoff hole, he hit his second shot in the water, which gifted Dufner the CareerBuilder Challenge.
NBC's Johnny Miller summed it up best on the broadcast (via Mike O'Malley of Golf Digest):
Mike O'Malley @GD_MikeO
Johnny Miller, on David Lingmerth's shot into the water in the playoff: "There were no cracks in the armor, and then a major puncture."2016-1-25 00:49:51
Dufner has had a strong start to 2016, finishing in the top 10 at the Sony Open last week and following it up with a win Sunday. He'll look to continue that momentum next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California.
The 2016 Masters will be here before you know it. Dufner has already proved he can win a major tournament. If he can maintain something close to his current level of performance, he could be a threat in Augusta, Georgia, this year.