Jason Dufner survives the elements, wins the Memorial Tournament
Jason Dufner seemed headed toward a wire-to-wire win in his home state at Muirfield Village, but an ugly 77 in his third round erased his lead and broke the tournament wide open. On a blustery, cold and rainy Sunday at the Memorial, Dufner rebounded from his forgettable round with some clutch shots down the stretch to beat a small group of the world’s best just behind him.
The final round was temporarily suspended as the leaders were midway through their rounds due to lightning in the area, and after a long break, rain started to come down with just a few holes left to play.
Anirban Lahiri posted the best score in the clubhouse at 10-under thanks to a round of 65, but the battle for the win was between seven players spread across the final few groups. Daniel Summerhays took a lead into the final round, but double-bogeyed the third hole and bogeyed the fourth to slide back to the field.
Bubba Watson surged to the lead for a short while, but he followed up three birdies over his first six holes with two consecutive bogeys at seven and eight.
Jason Dufner had a commanding lead in the tournament after two 65s on Thursday and Friday, but he blew the tournament wide open with a disastrous 77 on Saturday.
Dufner seemed headed for another roller-coaster round on the front nine, carding three birdies and three bogeys before making the turn, but took control with birdies at the 10th, 12th and 15th to move one shot ahead of Rickie Fowler.
Justin Thomas blew his chance for a birdie at the par-5 15th that would have put him in a tie for second with a wild approach that sprayed well right of the green. He salvaged a par on the hole, but was still two shots back with only three holes to play. On the very next hole, Thomas’ tee shot found a greenside bunker, and he was unable to get up and down, taking himself out of contention with a bogey.
Matt Kuchar then joined the club of players at 10-under, but no one was going to catch Jason Dufner. He hit a brilliant approach on the par-4 17th to four feet, then made a nervy four-footer that slid in the side of the cup to build a two-shot advantage over Fowler with one to play.
The weather added some extra drama on the final hole. Dufner likely only needed a par to seal his win, but after he hit his drive in the thick rough to the right, the increasingly nasty weather conditions forced officials to blow the horn and remove players from the course.
When play finally resumed after 8:00 p.m. ET, Dufner attempted to pitch his ball back into the fairway but struggled to get it out of the rough, leaving himself out of the first cut and bringing a bogey into play. Needing to get up and down for par, Dufner managed to get the ball on the green, but left himself a long par putt. Rickie Fowler, meanwhile, hit a perfect drive to the center of the fairway, but missed the green with his approach - but Fowler's finish was inconsequential.
Dufner stepped up and drained the putt to all but seal his win with a three-shot lead on the field and only two groups left to play.
The win is Dufner's fifth on the PGA Tour, and his first since January of 2006.