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Jason Dufner's strong finishes come too early at PGA Championship

The golfer was even-par over four rounds at Atlanta Athletic Club's last four holes, but three birdies came in first three days, and three bogeys the last day. That led to Keegan Bradley's comeback.

August 14, 2011|By Jeff Shain
  • James Dufner reacts to his tee shot on No. 17 during the playoff against Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship on Sunday at Atlanta Athletic Club.
James Dufner reacts to his tee shot on No. 17 during the playoff against Keegan… (Larry W. Smith / EPA )

Reporting from Johns Creek, Ga. — For the record, Jason Dufner was even-par over four rounds of playing Atlanta Athletic Club's final four holes.

That's an admirable mark on a PGA Championship finishing stretch that produced bogey or worse 31% of the time. It's just the sequence that left Dufner chagrined.

The Alabama pro's three birdies came in the first three days. All three bogeys came Sunday, opening the door for Keegan Bradley's improbable comeback.

"If you had told me I would play those holes even-par for the week, I probably would have taken it at the beginning," said Dufner. "I'm just a little disappointed right now, especially [Nos.] 16 and 17."

Not the par-3 15th, where his 5-wood tee shot leaked off to the right just enough to splash down in the pond that protects the green. He wound up limiting the damage to a bogey, sinking a 12-foot putt after hitting from the drop zone.

"Bogey is a good score on 15," Dufner said.

What figures to eat at him more is his approach shot at the par-4 16th, where he eased off a 4-iron and it drifted right again — this time into a bunker. "Probably the worst iron shot of the week," he said.

A three-putt bogey at No.17 erased what was left of his lead, eventually sending him to the playoff.

As far as how much of an internal scar might be left, Dufner wasn't interested in speculating.

"I'm not into that," he said. "I just play golf. I love playing golf; I love the competition. And I want to be as good as I can be. If that's 20th in the world with no majors, or first in the world with 10 majors, or never to win a [PGA] Tour event — I'll be fine with it."

Change of plans

That Florida house-hunting tour for Rory McIlroy will be on hold for a few months.

The U.S. Open champion had hinted last week at scouting around for a new U.S. base after the PGA's completion, with an eye on next year's return to the PGA Tour. Instead, McIlroy will spend the week in Cincinnati.

"I hear it's nice there this time of year," he joked, not exactly ducking rumors of a relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

Cincinnati hosts a top women's prep event next week for that sport's U.S. Open, with Wozniacki as the top-seeded player.

After two weeks to let his ailing right wrist heal, McIlroy will start his European Tour stretch run at the European Masters in Switzerland. The house search now figures to take place after the season, with the Jupiter vicinity and Orlando's Lake Nona the primary targets.

"There was no point in going down there for a couple of days, rushing around and trying to pick something," he said. "I'll see how it is, maybe rent something down there for a while and choose the area that I would like to live."

U.S. fans probably won't see him in a PGA Tour event until next February, most likely at the WGC Match Play in Arizona.

Etc.

Bradley's victory completes the field for October's PGA Grand Slam of Golf, the annual four-man event matching the year's major champions in Bermuda. McIlroy, Masters winner Charl Schwartzel and British Open champion Darren Clarke punched their tickets earlier this season.

jshain@orlandosentinel.com

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