After historic round, Jason Dufner heads to weekend looking to add PGA champion to his resume
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Jason Dufner is that guy who got caught on camera slumped against a classroom wall, gazing straight ahead with a blank stare, arms rigidly by his side.
"Dufnering," they called it.
He became an Internet sensation.
Maybe by the time he leaves Oak Hill, Dufner will be known as something else.
On Friday, Dufner came up about 18 inches short of a feat that's never been done — shooting 62 in a major championship. As it was, he tied the scoring record with a 7-under 63 that pushed him to the lead midway through the PGA Championship.
"To join history, to shoot 63 in a major, that's pretty unbelievable," Dufner said. "To be leading the tournament, even better."
He heads to the weekend with a two-stroke lead over Adam Scott, Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar, while eight other players are lurking within five shots of the lead.
For Dufner, it's a chance to shake off the low point of his pro career, when he squandered a four-stroke lead with four holes to play at the 2011 PGA in Atlanta.
After losing to Keegan Bradley in a playoff, Dufner didn't seem too upset. He said matter-of-factly that he expected to get more chances on the major stage.
Well here he is, two years later, back in contention for the title that slipped away.
"What's happened in the past with me in majors is in the past," Dufner said. "I'm still trying to chase it, still trying to learn from the mistakes I made in prior majors."
There weren't many mistakes on Friday. Dufner holed out from the fairway for eagle, rolled in a putt across the green for par and kept making birdies — five in all — until he stood 12 feet away from a shot at the lowest score in the 153 years of championship golf. He didn't give it a chance, acknowledging a case of the nerves for the first time all day.
Not even the tap-in for par was a gimme, the ball coming off the putter weakly but diving into the right corner of the cup.
"You couldn't have a better putt for a chance at history on the last hole," Dufner said. "I just didn't quite hit it hard enough."
Dufner didn't feel disappointed for long.
At rain-softened Oak Hill, where pelt-sized divots were flying and birdies were falling, Dufner tied the 36-hole record (9-under 131) at the PGA Championship, a mark he now shares with six other players.
His 63 broke the course record at Oak Hill held by Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange and Webb Simpson, who shot 64 about five hours earlier. Dufner became the 24th player to shoot 63 in a major — Greg Norman and Vijay Singh, both in the Hall of Fame, did it twice.
And through it all, Dufner barely cracked a smile.
"He's very calm," said Steve Stricker, who had been the last guy to shoot 63 in a major and, in an interesting twist, played alongside Dufner. "I'm sure he was churning on the inside."
The possibilities were endless on a day that began with three hours of a steady rain until the sun broke through and took all the bite out of Oak Hill.
Simpson also had a chance at 63 until he made a bogey on the 16th hole of his round. U.S. Open champion Justin Rose shot 29 on the front nine. When the second round finally ended, 27 players remained under par — this on a course that is stubborn when it comes to par. In five previous majors at Oak Hill, only nine players have finished the tournament in red numbers. Jack Nicklaus did it twice.
For all the low scores, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were left behind.
Woods couldn't get anything going, exchanging birdies with bogeys during a poor putting round that led to a 70. He was at 141 and 10 shots back.
"Obviously, I'm going to have to put together a really good weekend," Woods said. "It's definitely gettable. Got to hit the ball in play and keep the ball near the hole so I can be aggressive with my putts."
Mickelson's swing apparently went missing in the three weeks since he won the British Open. He was all over Oak Hill and still managed a 34 on the back nine until his wild shots caught up with him. Another 71 left him 11 shots out of the lead.
Dufner's popularity has grown since April, when someone took that photo of him during a charity event as the teacher taught children how to relax and concentrate.
He embraced the craze, which seems to fit perfectly with his laid-back approach.
But there were nerves, no doubt, and Dufner showed them at the very end.
"It's tough when you're chasing history," he said. "You will be the first one to do something. I don't think I've been the first to do anything in my life. So it was a little nerve-racking for a Friday. It's usually the pressure you might feel toward the end of the tournament."
That part is still to come.
Scott is swinging the club beautifully, and his only flaw Friday was not holing enough birdie chances when the rain stopped. Even so, he was in the hunt on the weekend for the fourth time in the last six majors. He will be in the final group with Dufner on Saturday.
Henrik Stenson, a runner-up at Muirfield, had a 66 and joined Rose at 134, only three shots behind. Stricker and Robert Garrigus were another shot back.
After his historic round, Dufner gave up his cap, shirt and glove to the PGA for its museum.
The prize he really wants is the Wanamaker Trophy.
"I'm looking forward to a good weekend," Dufner said, "and maybe closing one of these out."
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