Welcome to “Club 63”, Jason Dufner.
A second round, 7-under-par, 63 vaulted Jason Dufner to the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes at Oak Hill Country Club, site of this year’s PGA Championship. There’s no doubt Dufner was aided by soft conditions, he admitted as much in his post-round press conference. But 63 in a major has only happened 25 other times (from 23 other golfers, Greg Norman and Vijay Singh each having done it twice). It doesn’t matter where it comes or what the conditions are, it’s still damn impressive.
15 greens in regulation and 26 putts were enough for Dufner to not only match the low round in a major, but also break the competitive course record for Oak Hill’s East Course. The legendary Ben Hogan first shot 64 there at a Tour event in 1942. It was matched in the 1989 US Open by Curtis Strange and earlier in the second round by Webb Simpson (how must that feel, to have a share of the course record for just about 5 hours?). But this in no way lessens the achievement for Dufner.
Needing a birdie on the 18th for a 62 and a new all-time low round in a major, Dufner split the fairway with his driver. He followed that with a 6-iron that never left the flag and stopped about 10 feet below the hole. You couldn’t ask for a better putt to shoot the round of your life. And Dufner promptly left it two-and-a-half feet short. But all credit to him for owning what was a pretty awful putt in his post-round TV interview:
Dufner will carry a two-shot lead into the weekend. He’s held the 36-hole lead at the 2011 PGA, where he lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff, and at the 2012 Masters, where he finished T-24. More encouraging is his play on the weekends in this year’s major championships. Sunday 67s at both the US and British Opens gave Dufner a pair of top-4 finishes.
But those low Sundays came from the middle of the pack. In fact, on Sunday at Merion he was nearing the lead and began to cool from a birdie streak. Playing with the lead is obviously much different. What will likely work in Dufner’s favor is that the course will play soft all weekend, so scoring will stay low.
If Dufner stays aggressive and fires at pins, because the ball will stop on Oak Hill’s small-ish greens, he should be in good shape. Dufner’s ballstriking off the tee and into the greens were on full display Friday, and are certainly strong enough to carry him to the Wannamaker Trophy Sunday afternoon.
Check out Duf’s post-round press conference here:
A final note on Dufner, it seems he knew Oak Hill fit him. On November 14 of last year he tweeted this:
I guess he’s a good bet for next year’s British Open at Royal Liverpool, huh?