Jason Dufner Wins Byron Nelson Championship for 2nd Victory in Four Weeks
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Jason Dufner stood on the 18th green, his lips together seemingly trying to suppress a smile while his playing partner finished the hole to end the Byron Nelson Championship.
Dufner had already made a 25-foot birdie putt to win for the second time in four weeks.
When J.J. Henry made the final putt Sunday, there was still no big outburst of emotion from the newly married Dufner after winning again. And there were no plans for any primal screams or chest bumps in private for the golfer who admittedly doesn’t get overly expressive very often.
“Here and there a couple of times a year,” Dufner said. “Usually there is some alcohol involved or Auburn football, but for the most part I’m laid back.”
That mentality paid off big at the Nelson, where Dufner was steady throughout.
With that long birdie on the final hole, Dufner avoided a playoff. He also was alone with a one-stroke lead after the second and third rounds when gusty winds prevailed on the TPC at Four Seasons course.
Dufner had a closing 3-under 67 for a 11-under 269, one stroke better than Dickey Pride, who went to the University of Alabama.
After getting his first victory April 29 at New Orleans, Dufner got married the following week.
Now he already has another victory, joining Hunter Mahan as the only two-time winners this season. Dufner won $1.17 million, took over the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings and extended his full-exempt PGA Tour status through the 2015 season.
“You probably couldn’t dream it any better than what’s been going on here,” Dufner said. “The wedding has been in the works for close to a year, so we know that’s been coming around the corner. And there’s been a lot of good golf since then, but to win two events and get married in the span of 22 days, pretty remarkable.”
Pride, whose only PGA Tour victory in a 20-year professional career came in 1994, was at 10 under after a round of 67. He made a par-saving 22-foot putt at No. 18 after hitting his drive into the water.
Moments later, Dufner made a putt a few feet longer but on virtually the same line.
“Apparently that was not a very difficult putt on 18, from the long right,” Pride said chuckling.
Henry, who had an early hole-in-one, was in the lead at 11 under after consecutive birdies at Nos. 15 and 16, finishing that stretch while Pride made a 13-foot birdie at the par-3 No. 17.
But then Henry hit a 7-iron over the 17th green. The former TCU star wound up with a double bogey that cost him the lead.
“To be honest, I thought I hit a good shot on 17. I thought the wind was a little into me,” Henry said. “I hit the line exactly where I tried to and it just carried about 6 or 7 yards too far.”
After watching Henry’s trouble, Dufner made a tap-in par and then hit a big drive on No. 18 and knew he was tied for the lead. He hit a sand wedge to the middle of the green.
“I knew if I made birdie that I would win, par would be a playoff,” Dufner said. “But the playoffs aren’t much fun. My experience in them aren’t too great.”
Dufner’s won at New Orleans in a two-hole playoff against Ernie Els. But he lost twice in playoffs last season, including to Keegan Bradley in the PGA Championship. Bradley was the defending Nelson champion, but finished tied for 24th after a closing 72 for a 278.
Joe Durant, who was the final alternate added to the Nelson field, shot a 65 to finish in a tie for third at 271 with Henry (68), Marc Leishman (66) and rookie Jonas Blixt (66).
Phil Mickelson, in his first Nelson in five years, had four consecutive birdies on the front nine and went on to a round of 66 to finish four strokes back. He tied for seventh with Ken Duke, who also had a string of four birdies in a row in his own 66.
Pride let out a scream of exhilaration when his final putt dropped. He then watched the final group to see if there would be a playoff, but had to settle for the first runner-up finish of his career and third top-seven this season.
“Jason didn’t take anything from me. He won the golf tournament. He won it by playing his game,” Pride said. “I hit shots I’m not happy with, but I’m going to continue to build on it. Trying to take the positives and build up on it.”
Matt Kuchar, the world’s fifth-ranked player who won The Players Championship a week earlier, had 70 and finished at 276 in a tie for 15th. He was trying to become the first PGA Tour player since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win in consecutive weeks.
Henry’s ace came at the 154-yard No. 5 hole, when he hit a pitching wedge. When the ball rolled back into the cup, Henry thrust both of his arms in the air, then had an emphatic uppercut and he celebrated with the gallery.
After Henry’s drive at the 504-yard 15th was way right and under a tree, he hit his approach to the middle of the green and made a 32-foot birdie putt that brought another fist pump.
The approach at the easier par-5 16th went in a greenside bunker, but Henry blasted inside 2 1-2 feet for a birdie to get to 11 under. Dufner, whose ball landed in the sand only a few away, hit to about 6 feet for a birdie and back within a stroke.
“We had a good battle going there,” Dufner said. “That’s a difficult bunker shot, but we both made it look easy.”
They also showed how differently they express their emotions.