- US PGA Championship, Round Four
Bradley holds nerve to win maiden major in a play-off
Keegan Bradley bounced back from a triple-bogey at the 15th hole to win the 93rd US PGA Championship in a play-off at Atlanta Athletic Club on Sunday evening.
PGA Tour rookie Bradley outclassed Jason Dufner in a three-hole showdown, after the 34-year-old had seen what was at one point a five-shot lead slip away over the closing holes of the tournament.
In the process, the 25-year-old became the first American since Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters to win a major championship, the longest such run for the country in the history of the game.
Not only that, but Bradley became only the third player since 1913 to win in his first ever appearance in a major - following in the footsteps of that year's US Open winner, Francis Ouimet, and Ben Curtis, who claimed the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St George's.
"I can't believe it, I'm so thankful to the PGA - my dad's a professional and I know this one will be a special one for him I'm sure," Bradley said after being presented with the Wanamaker Trophy. "I had a tough finish last week [at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he contended but failed to win] and I talked to Dr Bob Rotella and others about what happened. It's because of them that I was able to fight back."
The two men found themselves facing off after both finished at eight-under, Bradley after a round of 68 and Dufner after a 69. In what was a high-quality play-off over the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, both players got off to a solid start as they found the fairway at the first extra hole.
Dufner, playing first, then put down a real marker as he fired his approach right at the flag - nearly rolling it in for eagle before the ball came to rest around six-feet away. Unfazed, Bradley then put his shot even closer, and would claim the birdie to move ahead as Dufner pulled his unconvincing attempt left of the target.
The par-three 17th then saw another shot swing Bradley's way, as he found the putting surface off the tee and was able to safely two-putt from around 20-feet, while Dufner fanned his approach shot out to the right and then three-putted from 40 feet after completely misjudging the speed of the green - just as he had done in regulation.
Bradley therefore came to the difficult 18th with a two-shot cushion, before making Dufner's job even harder after successfully finding the putting surface in two after a gutsy 197-yard long iron that just carried the lake in front of the green. Dufner, playing second, could only match the shot - the two balls coming to rest just feet from each other - but then rolled in the ensuing putt to at least put a little pressure on Bradley.
But Bradley rolled his first putt down beside the cup and tapped in to claim victory a one-shot play-off victory, in the process adding his second professional title after winning the Byron Nelson Classic earlier in the year.
It had been an eventful day. Dufner, who had missed his four previous cuts on tour, at one point enjoyed a five-shot lead in the tournament with the same number of shots to play, after Bradley had managed to triple-bogey the water-lined par-three 15th. But, while Bradley bounced back with two birdies at 16 and 17 his opponent seemed suddenly overawed by the occasion, bogeying the 15th after also finding water before leaking further shots at the next two holes - failing to get up-and-down from the bunker on 16 before three-putting from about 30 feet on the 17th.
That meant both men entered the final hole on level terms. Bradley, playing in the group in front, set the target after finding both fairway and green, before showing great touch to roll a 50-foot putt to with-in easy range for his par. Dufner, knowing exactly what he needed to get in a play-off, then showed great strength of character to follow Bradley almost exactly, eventually rolling in a nervy two-footer to usher in a three-hole play-off - one he would unfortunately go on to lose.
Elsehwere, Dane Anders Hansen rounded out the 'podium' after a strong finish to post seven-under for the tournament, just one shot from adding a US PGA crown to his two European PGA tour titles.
A birdie at the par-three 17th elevated Hansen above fellow Scandinavian Robert Karlsson - who brought himself within a shot of the lead after a brilliant eagle at the 12th before three bogeys over his final three holes saw him disappointingly slip back into a tie for fourth alongside David Toms and Scott Verplank.
Toms, who won the US PGA at the same course back in 2001, carded a solid round of 67 to move himself into the top five at five-under, while Verplank saw his slim hopes of victory snuffed out after finding the water at 17, although he regrouped to finish strongly.
Last week's winner Adam Scott failed to secure back-to-back victories in a valiant effort. The Australian had got himself into contention at two-under for the day and four-under for the tournament after 11 holes, but he could only manage eight successive pars on his inward nine as the exertions of the last two weeks appeared to catch up with him.
The challenge of the two main English hopes, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald both faltered over the closing holes - with the former failing to find any further birdies on his last six holes before bogeying the last, as the latter found water at the treacherous 15th before also dropping a shot at the 18th.
Nevertheless both men still finished in a tie for eighth at three-under for the tournament, with Kevin Na and DA Points rounding out the top ten a shot further back.
Further down the field, Sergio Garcia was left to rue a couple of poor late shots as he finished one-under for the tournament, alongside Masters winners Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman, Gary Woodland, Bill Haas, Nick Watney and Steve Stricker.
Earlier in the day, Rory McIlroy completed his injury-affected tournament with a round of 74 - enough for a T-64 finish alongside Padraig Harrington and Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Northern Irishman again struggled at the third - the site of his wrist strain on the opening day - this time accruing a triple-bogey that added further disappointment to his tournament.
But the day, and the tournament, belonged to Bradley - who shot himself firmly into the wider golfing conscious and will now be watched with interest by fans hopeful he will turn this impressive victory into an even more successful career.