As he traversed the grounds of Oak Hill Country Club early in the week of the PGA Championship, Jason Dufner picked up some acorns that had fallen from some of the course’s thousands of oak trees, promising he’d take them home to his Alabama property and plant them.
By the time he was done early Sunday evening and departed from the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, the 36-year-old Dufner had picked up something else - namely, the Wanamaker Trophy, along with his first major title.
With a final round of 68, Dufner finished at 10-under-par 270, and beat veteran Jim Furyk by two shots. At the same time, he earned a fair amount of atonement for letting a late lead in the 2011 PGA Championship slip away. He also became the first Auburn University graduate to win a major.
“I always thought that it (the 2011 defeat) would make me confident the next time around,“ said Dufner. “It’s a great accomplishment. Hopefully, it will lead me to bigger things.”
By four shots, Dufner recorded the lowest 72-hole winning score in any major competition at Oak Hill, topping the mark of 274 that Jack Nicklaus recorded winning his record fifth PGA in 1980. He also went 27 consecutive holes without a bogey on the weekend on his way to the $1.445 million first prize.
Long known for his placid, laid-back demeanor and the “Dufnering” craze that exploded on Twitter earlier this year, Dufner had struggled for most of 2013, but burst into the picture at Oak Hill with a course-record 63 in Friday’s second round.
As the final round started, though, Dufner was one shot back of Furyk, who was trying to gain his second major title 10 years after his first, in the 2003 U.S. Open.
A terrific par save on 1 kept Furyk one ahead of Dufner, and they also parred the next two holes. Dufner said that those early pars settled him down and that he remained calm for the rest of the round.