The Brits and the Irish may now be rooting for Jason Dufner, or “Fat Rory,” as he’s been playfully dubbed. A lookalike may be as close as they’ll get to adding to the U.S. Open and British Open titles won this year by Northern Ireland’s Thin Rory (McIlroy) and Darren (“the diet starts tomorrow”) Clarke.
Keeping Dufner company on the leaderboard, though, are the fading Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. The top two players in the World Ranking are one under par, six shots adrift of joint leaders Dufner and Brendan Steele.
Donald had a putt on the 15th to get to five under par and into a tie for the lead at the time. He missed. Forty-five minutes later, he said he felt like screaming after a bogey at 16 and a double at 18. He tried his best to grit his teeth and control his anger.
First question: “Are you going to go looking for a cat to kick or a wall to punch?” Donald smiled. It may have been a grimace. “I’ll probably go and punish myself in the gym,” he said. “That finish leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.”
But Donald knows it’s not over yet because we can expect more carnage along the Fearsome Final Four holes before this championship is done.
“It’s not about making birdies,” Donald said. “It’s ‘Can you hold on?’ There’s no let-up. The theory would be to play those holes in even par, maybe one under, before the leaders do. It’s a tough stretch under pressure coming down the final holes in the last few groups. You never hope that your playing partners make mistakes, but there’s always that chance.”
The 507-yard 18th is a brute (no, it’s not a par 5). Donald chose a rescue club for his tee shot to take the water down the left out of play, but he failed to take the bunker down the right out of play. All he could do from there was thrash his ball 80 yards up the fairway. He was left with 143 yards to carry the water that guards the green. He fired a 9-iron into a left-to-right breeze to a sucker pin position on the right side of the green.
“I wanted to stuff it into there and make par,” Donald said. “I was too aggressive.” He pushed it five yards. Splash. Only Donald’s genius with a wedge from the drop zone saved a double bogey from being a triple. “I am angry,” he said. “I had something really good going there but kind of threw it away.”
Westwood was another who left for dinner in a huff. He got to three under par through the 10th hole but just couldn’t get a putt to drop. He threw two shots away at the par-4 14th when his second shot bounced away down a cart path. He compounded the error by three-putting for a double bogey.
“It’s just disappointing because I’m playing such good golf, and I have done for the first three days, but nothing’s gone in,” Westwood said.
Like Donald, however, he seemed to think he wasn’t out of it yet.
“I’m not wishing ill on them, but you can still make a mess of the last three or four holes,” he said.
What can he try differently to get those putts to drop? “I don’t know. Different religion, maybe?” Westwood said. “I have no idea. I’ve tried everything else it seems. Just need a bit of inspiration from somewhere and a bit of luck.”
The leaderboard at the 93rd PGA Championship may be crammed with the names of the PGA Tour’s B List (Steele, Dufner, Bradley, Verplank, Jobe and Points) and a sprinkling of its A List (Stricker, Scott, Furyk), but they are holding off No. 1 and No. 2.
England’s A Listers will have to go low in the final round and hope that the B Listers fluff their lines. “On a course like this, people have showed that you can make runs,” Donald said. “And it’s easy to come back to the field, too. I’m quietly optimistic.”
Westwood also maintained a stiff upper lip. “One under is by no means out of it,” he said.
Australia’s Adam Scott (two under par) spoke for all those chasing down the lead. He was an Aussie giving hope to the English (these truly are desperate times).
“You can make up six shots in the last four holes,” Scott said. “So yeah, you can make up six shots in the last round.”