Two years after squandering a four-stroke lead in the last four holes to lose a major title, Jason Dufner once again leads a PGA Championship and has cracked under pressure.
The 36-year-old US player matched the lowest round in major golf history on Friday, firing a seven-under-par 63 to stand on nine-under 131 with a two-stroke lead after the second round of the 95th PGA Championship at rain-soaked Oak Hill.
However, with a 12-foot putt on the 18th green to become the first player in major golf history to fire a round of 62, Dufner left his tension-packed putt a foot and a half short.
“I knew nobody had ever shot 62, so I knew where I stood and you couldn’t have a better putt for a chance at history on the last hole, but I just didn’t quite hit it hard enough,” Dufner said.
“The greens had gotten a little bit slower, little bit bumpier and I probably didn’t hit the best putt — probably the worst putt I hit of the day, which is a little disappointing, but all in all it’s a 63 and my name is on top of the leaderboard so that’s a great position to be playing from,” he said.
“If I could do it over, I guess I would hit the putt harder,” he added.
Dufner became the 24th player to shoot 63 in a major. The feat has been done 26 times, with Australian Greg Norman and Fiji’s Vijay Singh accomplishing it twice.
Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Nick Price and Nick Faldo are among the other players to shoot 63 in a major.
“That’s pretty good company right there,” Dufner said.
Dufner, who won his first USPGA title after 163 tries last year at New Orleans, then followed it up by taking the Byron Nelson Championship, would not mind another chance at the 2011 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club either.
Four up with four holes remaining, Dufner led eventual winner Keegan Bradley by five strokes, but Dufner made bogeys at 15, 16 and 17, while Bradley birdied 16 and 17 to set up a three-hole playoff that Bradley won by a shot.
Dufner’s 63 broke the old course record of 64 shared by Ben Hogan from 1942, Curtis Strange from 1980 and Webb Simpson from just hours before, but he and his rivals know it could have been much more had he made the birdie putt on 18.
“I could hear the roar and knew he had a big putt to shoot the lowest score in major championship history, so I was kind of pulling for him. That’s a pretty good feat,” said Jim Furyk, who shares second on 133 with Matt Kuchar and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia.
Dufner said there might even be a bit of a mental barrier to shooting a 62 in a major.
“Major set-ups are so difficult,” Dufner said.
“It’s just a tough thing to shoot a 62 in a major and I’m sure there’s a little bit of a mental hurdle for some guys to break that barrier.”
Dufner, who shared fourth in the past two US Opens, also figures he will have some hurdles before he captures that elusive major title.
“I’m sure guys will be gunning for whoever might be leading,” he said. “So I think it’s important to pick your spots — maybe later, toward those last nine holes.”