USPGA Tour rookie Keegan Bradley capped a stunning late fightback by winning his first major title in a playoff with fellow American Jason Dufner for the 93rd PGA Championship on Sunday.
Bradley, who had trailed the pacesetting Dufner by five strokes with three holes to play in regulation, clinched the prized Wanamaker Trophy over three extra holes as the shadows lengthened at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
His victory, in his first major start, ended an unprecedented run of six majors without a US champion and it was his second title on the US circuit in his debut season.
“This feels unbelievable,” a beaming Bradley, 25, told reporters after becoming the first player to claim a Grand Slam crown in his maiden major start since fellow American Ben Curtis at The Open in 2003.
The last player to achieve the feat on US soil was Francis Ouimet at the 1913 US Open.
“I always wanted while growing up to win tournaments and win majors, and I can’t believe this trophy is sitting next to me,” said Bradley, who was ranked 108th in the world going into the weekend. “It’s an honor to be even thought of in that category and I’m very proud of the way I played. It’s the best golf I’ve ever played, and man, it was so exciting.”
Bradley holed a four-foot birdie putt at the first playoff hole, the par-four 16th, to hold an early advantage over Dufner, who missed his attempt there from six feet.
Though Bradley could only par the tricky 160-yard 17th where a large pond guards the front of the green, he found himself two strokes ahead after Dufner ran up a three-putt bogey.
Bradley then sealed victory in the year’s final major with a two-putt par at the treacherous 18th after both players found the front portion of the green with their approach shots.
After tapping in from less than two feet, the slender American acknowledged the roars from the crowd crammed around the green, before shaking hands with Dufner, who had birdied the hole from long-range.
Bradley, a nephew of LPGA great and World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, won his first USPGA Tour title in a playoff with compatriot Ryan Palmer at the Byron Nelson Championship in May.
“Hats off to Keegan for coming in there in the last three holes in regulation,” Dufner, 34, told reporters after losing a playoff for the second time this year on the USPGA Tour. “He played great playoff holes and it’s probably not the finish I was looking forward to.”
Joint leader overnight with USPGA Tour rookie Brendan Steele, Dufner had been unflappable for much of the day and was five strokes clear while playing the par-three 15th after Bradley had tripled-bogeyed the hole a group ahead.
However, Dufner then fell back with bogeys at 15, 16 and 17, while Bradley sank birdie putts from nine feet at the 16th and 40 feet at the 17th to force a playoff.
The pair had finished the 72 regulation holes on eight-under 272, Dufner fading to a one-under 69, while Bradley closed with a five-birdie 68.
Denmark’s Anders Hansen closed with a joint best-of-the-day 66 to finish third at seven-under, two strokes ahead of Sweden’s Robert Karlsson (67) and veterans David Toms (67) and Scott Verplank (70) of the US.
World No. 1 Luke Donald and second-ranked fellow Briton Lee Westwood both got to within three strokes of the lead on the back nine, before losing momentum on the way to matching 68s and a tie for eighth at three-under.