May 18, 2012
Dufner chips in for Byron Nelson lead
By SPORTS NETWORK
IRVING, TEX. - It's good to be Jason Dufner.
Three weeks ago, he finally earned his first PGA Tour victory, a playoff win over Ernie Els.
The following week, Dufner got married.
And on Friday, he chipped in on the 18th hole to take the second-round lead of the Byron Nelson Championship, his fourth 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour this year.
Dufner's four-under 66 got him to seven-under 133 for the championship and broke him out of a huge logjam for first.
Last week's Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar continued his fine form with a two-under 68. He is tied for second with first-round leader and last year's runner-up Ryan Palmer (70), Chad Campbell (66), Pat Perez (67), Dicky Pride (68) and Marc Leishman (69). The group finished at six-under 134.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley is in the mix. The reigning PGA Champion posted a two-under 68 and into a tie for eighth with Ryuji Imada (68) and Charley Hoffman (69). The trio came in at minus-five.
But Friday belonged to Dufner, whose evolution into a top-20 player in the world rankings is still in progress.
"I'm confident with my game and happy with where my game is at now," said Dufner, who also moved into the top eight on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list.
Dufner's second round got off to a rocky start Friday.
He hit a wild drive off the first tee and three-putted from 30 feet for a bogey. Two holes later, Dufner's tee ball landed in the water right of the fairway and that led to another bogey.
Dufner, who lost a playoff to Bradley last year at the PGA Championship, got everything under control and play great at the end of his front nine. He ran in a 10-foot birdie putt at six, two-putted for birdie at seven and rolled in a 20-footer for birdie at No. 9.
Dufner found trouble at the 12th when he landed in a greenside bunker with his approach. He hit a terrible shot out of the sand over the green, then made bogey to fall back to three-under for the championship.
Once again, Dufner collected himself, starting with a 21-foot birdie putt at the 14th. He chipped in for birdie at 15, then poured in a 15-footer for birdie at the par-five 16th.
Dufner was tied for the lead and parred 17. He blocked his drive into the right rough and he hammered his second over the green. Dufner chipped in again for birdie, this time for sole possession of the lead.
"I was kind of around par for the day, trying to stay patient a little bit, maybe get a birdie or two on the last five holes and ended up getting birdie on four of the last five, couple of chip-ins, which you don't expect, especially the one on 18," said Dufner. "That's a difficult position to be over the back of that green to that hole location.
"It was a nice way to finish, looking forward to the weekend."
There has been a progression to Dufner's success this season.
His first 36-hole lead came at the Transitions Championship in March, but he ended up in a tie for 10th.
Up next was the Masters and, after a pair of 75s on the weekend, Dufner dipped to a tie for 24th.
On his third try, Dufner held on for the win. He birdied the second playoff hole in New Orleans to best Els and finally get the victory, one he hopes will spring-board him to more success.
"Usually when you're feeling good you're going to go into the weekend leading or close to the lead, and I've been fortunate to be in that position," said Dufner. "Closed out one a couple of weeks ago, haven't played quite as well in others, but hopefully the experience that I had New Orleans will build for me and I will have confidence going into the weekend."
Jason Day, the 2010 Byron Nelson winner, shot his second straight two-under 68 and is part of a group tied for 11th at four-under par.
Phil Mickelson got to three-under par, but found water at the 18th and made double-bogey. He finished with a one-under 69 and is one-under for the championship.
NOTES: Former British Open Champion David Duval and this year's Mayakoba Golf Classic winner John Huh withdrew on Friday...The 36-hole cut fell at two-over 142 and former champions Adam Scott and Rory Sabbatini, along with Johnson Wagner, Carl Pettersson, Y.E. Yang and Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen missed the weekend.