After two rounds at the Memorial Tournament, Jason Dufner was flying high. He set the 36-hole scoring record, owned a five-stroke lead and had only made one bogey. On Saturday he went backwards, shooting a five-over 77 to fall four shots back of the lead and seemingly ruin his chances at victory. Yet the laconic American showed resilience on Sunday, clawing all the way back with a final-round four-under 68 on a rainy Muirfield Village Golf Club to win his fifth career US PGA Tour title.
In addition to the difficult golf course, Dufner battled through two lengthy rain delays and a leaderboard full of top talent. The 40-year-old had an up-and-down opening nine, shooting an even-par 36 with three birdies and three bogeys. His home nine was reminiscent of his first 36 holes, carding a bogey-free four-under 32, highlighted by an 110-metre approach shot that spun back to tap-in range on the par-4 17th hole.
But just when he though could breathe easy at 13-under, Dufner pushed his tee shot right of the fairway on the difficult 18th, and then the second horn sounded for another suspension of play.
When they got back on the course at just after 8pm, local time, Dufner had no option other than hacking it back out in the fairway, but it came up short in the rough. Meanwhile, at 11-under, his playing partner Rickie Fowler had a pitching wedge in his hand and a chance to knock it close and put the pressure on. Fowler, however, juiced it left of the pin into the rough, while Dufner hit his third to 32 feet. Two putts would guarantee no worse than a playoff, but he only needed one, rolling in the par and letting out a fist pump and smile rarely seen from the 2013 US PGA Championship winner:
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 5, 2017
Dufner joins Jack Nicklaus as the only other Ohio-born player to win the Memorial, and his Saturday 77 is the worst third-round by a US Tour winner since Nick Faldo, who did it at the 1989 Masters.
Tying for second were Fowler and Anirban Lahiri, who vaulted up the leaderboard thanks to a seven-under 65. Lahiri has yet to win on the American circuit, but the T-2 finish is his best of the season and comes after missing his previous three cuts. Fowler’s final-round two-under 70 gives him his fifth top-10 finish of the season. Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar finished at nine under, tying for fourth.
The best-placed Australians were Jason Day (70) and Marc Leishman (71), sharing 15th place at five-under.