AMERICAN rookie Keegan Bradley has claimed a major golf championship at his first attempt after a dramatic three hole play off at the 2011 US PGA Championship.
The 25 year old defeated his shattered countryman Jason Dufner after coming from behind to level at 8-under in regulation.
Journeyman Dufner (69) was on cruise control and seemingly had the championship in the bag when he stood on the 15th tee with a five stroke lead.
Bradley (68) had just chipped across the green into the drink on the way to a triple bogey and was gone for all money.
But that’s when the momentum changed. Dufter put his tee shot on the brutal 259 yard par three into the water for the first of three bogies while Bradley fought back to birdie 16 and 17 on the notoriously difficult run home.
Tied on 8-under, Bradley birdied the first of their three aggregate play-off holes, the 16th, while the nerves clearly got to Dufner, who failed to capitalise on a similarly magnificent approach shot to the green.
He missed his comparatively short birdie putt and then watched painfully as Bradley birdie the next hole.
When Bradley put his second shot five iron the green on the dangerous 18th with a two stroke buffer it was all but over.
Bradley became the first American to win a major since Phil Mickelson took the 2010 Masters and the first player to win a major in his first attempt since Ben Curtis won the British Open in 2003.
“I can’t believe it,” said an emotional Bradley, who won his first US PGA Tour event at the Byron Nelson Championship earlier this year and has impressed in a number of recent tournaments.
“I’m so thankful to the PGA. My dad Mark is a PGA professional and very proud of his status and I know this will be a special one for him for sure.”
“I had a tough finish last week at Bridgestone and a lot of the players out here were so great to me and it’s because of them I was able to fight back.”
To put it in the local vernacular, 34 year old Dufner, who Australians might remember from his third at the 2010 Australian Masters behind Tiger Woods, will just feel like going home and upchucking.
Dane Anders Hanson (66) finished in third one shot back while Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and American veterans David Toms (67) and Scott Verplank (70) tied fourth at five-under.
Adam Scott (68) threatened early but stalled to finish 7th on 4-under.
“Maybe nine was the killer,” Scott said.
“Making bogey there after birdie at eight hurt as it would have been nice to get on a bit of a run through to the 13th hole to get in it, but it wasn’t to be.
“I only hit two fairways on the back nine and I never gave myself a chance to get the ball near the hole.
“It was tough but it was a good score today because I gave myself less opportunities then every other day. I did the best I could.”
His playing partner John Senden who had looked so good earlier in the tournament ground out a 2-over 72 to finish tied for 19 on even, while Robert Allenby got into the top 10 early when he was five-under par through 14 holes. Three late bogeys left him at one-over for the week in a tie for 26th.
Jason Day’s amazing major’s run thudded to earth, with rounds of 71 and 74 seeing him miss the 4 over cut by a stroke.
So that’s the golf majors over again for the year. It’s not as much fun when we don’t have the likes of Scott and Day taking it down to wire in the final few holes. OH well, there’s always next year.2011 US PGA Championship Final Results