JOHNS CREEK, Ga. -- Bobby Jones would have appreciated the drama on Sunday at a major in his home state and at his home club.
He would have applauded the bravado of Keegan Bradley, the steadiness of Jason Dufner, the consistency of Anders Hansen and knowing that the guy who played the best golf drove down Bobby Jones Drive with a major trophy riding shotgun.
Bradley, a PGA Tour rookie, shook off a triple-bogey which momentarily put him five shots off the lead with three holes to play overcame the deficit by winning an aggregate three-hole playoff over Dufner to claim the PGA Championship.
"It's unbelievable considering the fact that 2 1/2 years ago I was playing on the Hooters Tour, grinding for survival to keep playing," said Bradley, who finished at 8-under-par 272. "It seems like a dream, and I'm afraid I'm going to wake up here in the next five minutes and it's not going to be real."
It is. So was the silver Wanamaker Trophy that he posed next to on the 18th green and carried with him for the rest of the evening.
"Ever since I was 10-years-old, I've kind of flown under the radar," Bradley said. "I had what I thought was a pretty good college career but never got noticed. Same in junior golf and same out here.
"But I've always wanted to win tournaments and win majors. I can't believe [the trophy] is sitting here next to me."
It's said that the Masters doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday. Excitement at the PGA Championship started on the back nine as well on Sunday.
Possible contenders fell by the wayside, as evening clouds created more shadows than Georgia Pines and as those golfers played the final four diabolical holes.
Hansen, from Denmark, finished third at 7-under 273. Robert Karlsson bogeyed his last three holes and tied for fourth with Scott Verplank and PGA champion David Toms, who navigated the final stretch in his 2001 victory here.
"I'm very proud of myself," Hansen said. "It's good for my confidence. It's good for my future."
Tension of the tournament disappeared for a moment when Bradley chipped his second shot from rough left of the green to a slow-motion roll across the green and into a pond with the end result being a triple-bogey. In one hole, he lost three shots.
That gave Dufner -- who was bogey-free to that point as he watched Bradley's catastrophe from the elevated tee -- a five-shot lead.
Bradley flinched, just for one second.
"I thought, "Don't let that hole define this tournament,'" Bradley said. "I kept telling myself that nothing happened."
He birdied 16 then high-fived playing competitor Scott Verplank as they walked up to the 17th tee with on patron yelling, "Go Sox" in reference to Bradley's New England heritage.
Dufner made his first mistake of the day -- a bogey on No. 15 by hitting into a pond. It seemed to be no big deal at the moment. But he lost another shot with another bogey on No. 16.
Then Bradley struck his right-to-left putt on No. 17, stepped to the right to watch it and received a standing ovation from the gallery as the birdie dropped in.
Dufner's lead shrunk to one. Then the former Auburn walk-on dropped another shot with a third straight bogey on No. 17 by three-putting.
A fan screamed at Bradley, "You're tied," as he walked down the 18th fairway. Bradley didn't react. The big leaderboard by No. 18 had yet to post Dufner's bogey when Bradley putted on 18.
He parred and headed to the scoring tent where he signed his card and waited to watch the last group play what could have been the last hole.
Dufner's girlfriend, Amanda Boyd, and a few others close to him gathered under the CBS tower on the 18th green.
Boyd could have jumped into his arms on the green if Dufner made a birdie putt. He tried, he watched, the gallery gasped as the putt ran out of gas.
"They are tough finishing holes and unfortunately that was the deciding factor," Dufner said. "Keegan made a couple birdies there and I made a couple bogeys."
Playoff -- Dufner and Bradley, the best score over three holes wins the year's final major.
"I still had a chance to win the tournament and anything can happen on those three holes," Dufner said. "When you're in the moment, you're thinking about winning this thing."
Bradley birdied No. 16, Dufner three-putted No. 17 and Dufner birdied No. 18 which set up a tense two-foot par putt for Bradley.
He made it. His sister, Madison, hugged him with her infant son, Aiden, in arms..
And somewhere perhaps, Bobby Jones applauded too.
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...
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