New Orleans, LA – Jason Dufner two-putted for birdie on the second playoff hole Sunday to defeat Ernie Els and win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Dufner managed a two-under 70 in the final round, while Els fired a five-under 67. The duo ended at 19-under-par 269 at TPC Louisiana.
On the first extra hole, the par-five 18, Dufner found the green in two, but was 73 feet from the hole. Els found sand with his second then blasted his third within five feet.
Dufner's eagle putt didn't get inside Els. His birdie effort missed right, but Els also missed his birdie try to the right and they headed back to the 18th tee for the second extra hole.
Els, hitting first, found sand off the tee and had to lay up with his second. Dufner, from the fairway, hit his second to nearly the same spot as he did the first time around, but he was more than 10 feet closer.
Els pulled his third left of the hole. He had about 18 feet for birdie from the fringe.
Dufner's eagle chance stopped just over a foot from the hole to put pressure on Els. The South African's birdie try came up short, right of the hole, and he tapped in for par.
Dufner kicked in his birdie putt to collect his first PGA Tour win.
"Yeah, you know, it was a tough day. Ernie put up a good number today, and we were battling it. You know, it's just been tough getting this first win," Dufner said in a greenside interview. "A little bit of a monkey off my back. I'm excited."
Luke Donald also closed with a 67 to take third place at minus-17. With that, he will reclaim the top spot in the world rankings from Rory McIlroy on Monday.
Ryan Palmer (69) and Graham DeLaet (71) shared fourth place at 16-under 272. Steve Stricker (70) ended alone in sixth at minus-15.
Dufner held the lead entering the final round for the third time in his tour career. He was last in this position at last year's PGA Championship, where he lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff.
The 35-year-old entered Sunday tied for 108th in final round scoring average and he was quickly put to the test as Els caught him early on the front nine.
Els had a pair of three-foot birdie putts on the second and fifth to move to 16-under. Dufner, who parred the first five holes, stumbled to a bogey on the sixth to slip into a share of the lead alongside Els.
The 42-year-old Els drained an eight-foot eagle putt on the par-five seventh to move two clear. Dufner responded quickly, though.
Dufner two-putted for birdie on No. 7 and knocked in a four-footer for birdie at the eighth to join Els atop the leaderboard at 18-under. Dufner briefly regained the lead with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 10th.
Els rolled in a four-footer for birdie on the par-five 11th to match Dufner at 19-under. Neither player blinked the remainder of regulation.
Els posted seven straight pars to end first at minus-19. Dufner poured in eight consecutive pars, including a three-putt par at the last, to match Els and force the playoff.
"I didn't give myself many chances for birdie [on the back nine] and subsequently, I had putts for a lot of pars, which I made," Els stated. "It was a nice little charge I made. I had a chance to win the tournament, but in the playoff, I didn't hit a great putt on the first playoff hole. All in all, I had a good week. I just came up short."
NOTES: Dufner, who is getting married next weekend, earned $1.152 million for the victory...Not only was it Dufner's first tour win, it was his first win in three PGA Tour playoffs...Els was denied his 19th PGA Tour title and first since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational...The PGA Tour heads to North Carolina next week for the Wells Fargo Championship, where Lucas Glover beat Jonathan Byrd in a playoff last year.