PGA Championship 2011 Results: 10 Most Impressive Performances from Johns Creek

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIAugust 15, 2011

PGA Championship 2011 Results: 10 Most Impressive Performances from Johns Creek

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    The 2011 major season concluded with its most competitive major, at least mathematically.

    It's pretty clear that we'll remember Keegan Bradley's great finish after making a triple bogey on the 15th green. Conversely, we'll also be remembering Jason Dufner's collapse, which came after nearly an entire tournament of great play.

    We'll be hearing from both of them a little later, but there were plenty of great performances from other players throughout the week.

    We will not be hearing a lot from some of the better known players. We may remember Tiger Woods' awful play after a brilliant start, but this is the last you will hear from him now.

    There was more than enough good play to focus on this week.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood: Final Round 68's

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    What better place to start than with the world's No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players?

    While both Donald and Westwood finished five shots out of the playoff, they both made progress in the final rounds.

    Neither man has a major win. So, coming off a British Open where neither made the cut, a strong showing was important for them to be seriously considered as the top two golfers in the world.

    Not only did they make the cut, but both had strong weekend performances, finishing right outside of serious contention.

    Each man shot two 68s over their tournament. Westwood shot a 68 in the second round, Donald had one in the third and both finished strong with a 68 on Sunday.

    Westwood bogeyed 18 on Sunday while Donald bogeyed 16 and 18 to end their chances, but they were by no means the only players to do that.

David Toms: Third Round 65

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    David Toms won the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club 10 years ago.

    He made the cut this year, but did not appear to be a serious factor, going three-over par on his opening two days. Then, he came back with a 65 in the third round and became a realistic contender.

    More specifically, his final seven holes on Saturday were played at five-under par. Included in that was a one-under stretch on the grueling final four holes.

    Toms backed that up with a final round 67, finishing in a tie for fourth place.

Brendan Steele: Breaking 70 in First Three Rounds

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    Brendan Steele unfortunately experienced a significant fade during the final round. He bogeyed three of the first five holes and was more of an afterthought than anything else.

    Still, he was the 54-hole co-leader. He got there with a respectable opening round of 69 and got better with a 68 and 66 in the second and third rounds.

    In a storyline that we will hear again, Steele was playing in his first professional major. No matter what happened during the final round, carrying a 54-hole lead in your first major is quite impressive.

Scott Verplank: Contending at 47 Years Old

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    No player shot in the 60s in all four rounds this week. Scott Verplank did come really close, though, shooting a 67, two 69s and a final round 70.

    When his tee shot on the 17th hole bounced into the water, his chances at winning were gone, but his performance was impressive.

    At 47 years old, Verplank has been one of the shortest hitters on tour for a long time. Playing at a long venue, it did not seem as though Verplank would be a serious contender this week.

    Still, playing in his first major of the season, Verplank earned a tie for fourth place. Not only was that his best finish in a major, but it guaranteed him a spot in the Masters next year.

Steve Stricker: Opening Round 63

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    Stricker wasn't a serious factor for most of Sunday, shooting a 73. But while he didn't finish the tournament well, his start was historically good.

    Stricker fired a bogey-free, seven-under par round of 63, tying the record for the lowest round ever shot in a major.

    Not unlike Verplank, Stricker is not a long hitter of the ball, so this course didn't seem to be made for him.

    While he failed to break par in two of his remaining three rounds, Stricker's opening round 63 was the lowest round of the tournament and let people know that it wouldn't just be a week for the bombers.

Rory McIlroy: Making Cut After Injuring His Wrist

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    While Stricker's opening round 63 was impressive, the majority of attention was focused on Rory McIlroy, who shot a 70.

    Actually, it was only one of those shots that received so much attention.

    McIlroy made a stupid decision when he hit his second shot on the third hole from a root. From the moment that he hit it, it was obvious that something was wrong.

    After receiving on course clearance to finish the round, McIlroy did just that, shooting an even par round of 70.

    The rest of his week was unimpressive on the scorecard, as he shot a 73 and two 74s, but he did make the cut.

    How much the injury affected his game is unknown to everyone but McIlroy. He was cleared to play, so it's probably not an injury that will put him at long-term risk, but he was playing through pain.

    At the US Open, McIlroy showed off his resiliency and talent. At the PGA Championship, McIlroy showed us all that he's pretty tough.

Robert Karlsson: 67 in Third and Fourth Round

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    At one-over through 36 holes, Robert Karlsson made the cut with plenty of room to spare, but he wasn't much of a factor.

    He came back with a 67, which was good but still left him five shots back with only 18 holes to play.

    Karlsson's opening 12 holes on Sunday made him a realistic contender. At one point, he was alone in second place. It even looked as though we could see a round similar to what Johnny Miller had at 1973's US Open.

    The finishing three holes were not kind to Karlsson, who bogeyed 16, 17 and 18. Still, he shot a 67 and was a factor until the very end of his round.

Anders Hansen: Final Round 66

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    For most of the final round, it looked like a virtual certainty that the American major drought would come to an end. Karlsson and this man, Anders Hansen, stepped in and raised a great deal of doubt that that would be the case.

    Hansen played the grueling final four-hole stretch at even par, bogeying 16 but making a birdie on 17.

    Like Verplank, Hansen also came very close to shooting all four rounds in the 60s. His third round 70 was sandwiched by a 68, 69 and 66.

    Playing one group behind Hansen, Keegan Bradley made a par on the last hole to officially eliminate Hansen from contention, but his 66 was tied for the lowest Sunday round. Pablo Larrazabal also shot a 66, but was nowhere near the top of the leaderboard.

    Had either Hansen or Karlsson won, they would have done so with one of the better final round comebacks in major history.

    Karlsson was close, Hansen was closer, but neither man could quite find their way into the playoff.

Jason Dufner: First 68 Holes of Tournament

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    It's unfortunate that Dufner bogeyed 15, 16 and 17. Regardless of who one is cheering for, it's never good to see someone lose a major like that.

    But what can't be ignored is that Dufner was brilliant for his first 68 holes.

    After a solid opening round 70, Dufner earned a spot in the final round with a 65 on Friday. A 68 on Sunday gave him a share of the 54-hole lead.

    Before Dufner hit his tee shot on the 15th hole on Sunday, he hadn't made a bogey all day and had a five-shot lead. He was striking the ball brilliantly, barely missing a fairway or green and making all of the putts that he had to make.

    There is no doubt that Dufner collapsed coming in, although shooting even par in the three-hole playoff is nothing to be ashamed of.

    Even with the Sunday bogeys on 15, 16 and 17, Dufner played the final four holes at even par on the week.

    He had never won a tournament before. Whether he will go on to win a tournament or major remains to be seen. But Dufner learned a lot this week and played some great golf. He laid the groundwork to win a major at some point in the future. It's up to him now to do it.

Keegan Bradley: Winning His First Career Major in His First Try

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    Feel free to point out Jason Dufner's collapse all you want, but Keegan Bradley was brilliant over the final three holes and again in the playoff.

    After making a triple-bogey on the 15th hole, Bradley's chances appeared done. But he came back with a birdie on 16 and 17 to apply pressure to Dufner. Additionally, Bradley's birdie putt on 17 will be remembered for a very long time.

    When the playoff was underway, Bradley found himself quickly on the defensive when Dufner nearly holed his second shot on the opening hole. Bradley stepped up and hit a shot closer than Dufner's and with a much more desirable putt. When Dufner missed his putt, Bradley took advantage and made the birdie, opening a lead.

    When Dufner three-putted the 17th green, Bradley had a two-shot lead and had to hit two more good shots to seal the tournament, which he did.

    Bradley's performance is symbolic of what the young generation of golfers is doing. They play fearless golf and don't seem to worry about paying their dues.

    Three of 2011's major champions are under 30. Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer won the final two majors of 2010; they're both under 30.

    Bradley's performance may be more impressive than any, as this was the first time he ever played in a major.

    A lot of attention has been focused on guys like Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson as the future of American golf. Both are good golfers with bright futures, but let's compare them to Bradley.

    Fowler had a lot of great rounds and performances, but has never won a professional tournament.

    Johnson has four wins, but has faltered down the stretch of three different majors that he could have won.

    Bradley is between them in age, younger than Johnson but older than Fowler. In his rookie year, he now has one regular win and one major.

    We may have seen a glimpse into the future of American golf today.