Jason Dufner of the USA came through a playoff against South Africa’s Ernie Els to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana. It was his first PGA Tour victory.
Dufner took a two-stroke lead into the final round and he closed with a two-under-par 70 for a tournament record, four-round total of 19-under-par. That was only good enough to match the score already posted by Ernie Els who had signed off with an excellent 67.
That meant Dufner and Els had to be separated by a sudden-death playoff. The American had lost in playoffs to Keegan Bradley for last year’s PGA Championship, and to Mark Wilson in the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier in 2011. After fading in this year’s US Masters and blowing 36-hole leads five more times in his career, there was pressure on Dufner to prove he was able to close the deal.
Both players made par on the 18th hole on the first time of asking, but Dufner went one better second time round and Els was unable to match him. The title was Dufner’s.
“To get the monkey off of my back, it’s a great feeling,” he said. “There’s been a good bit of pressure, people talking about, `Why aren’t you winning? Why can’t you close the deal?'”
Although disappointed not to secure a 19th PGA Tour title, Ernie Els was able to take the positives from his performance.
“It was a nice little charge I made and, you know, nice to catch the leader,” he said. “I had a chance to win the tournament with a 6-footer (on the first playoff hole) and missed it, but I made quite a few putts on the back nine to keep myself in it. I Hit the ball pretty well today and had no bogeys on the final round.”
Finishing alone in third, Luke Donald has moved back past Rory McIlroy to Number 1 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Donald is not playing this week and McIlroy could re-take the top-spot as he will tee it up at Quail Hollow.
Zurich Classic of New Orleans
TPC Louisiana, Avondale, Louisiana
26-29 Apr, purse $6,400,000, par 72
1 Jason Dufner (USA) 67 65 67 70 269 $1,152,000
2 Ernie Els (RSA) 66 68 68 67 269 $691,200
3 Luke Donald (Eng) 73 65 66 67 271 $435,200
T4 Graham DeLaet (Can) 68 67 66 71 272 $281,600
T4 Ryan Palmer (USA) 72 67 64 69 272 $281,600
6 Steve Stricker (USA) 66 68 69 70 273 $230,400
T7 Ken Duke (USA) 65 68 71 70 274 $199,467
T7 Cameron Tringale (USA) 65 70 68 71 274 $199,467
T7 John Rollins (USA) 67 66 69 72 274 $199,467
T10 Rickie Fowler (USA) 71 65 69 70 275 $160,000
T10 David Mathis (USA) 72 69 69 65 275 $160,000
T10 Justin Rose (Eng) 72 67 68 68 275 $160,000
Note: Player score in bold signifies Titleist ball usage
European Tour – Bernd Wiesberger wins Ballantine’s Championship