2006: Nationwide Tour
A week before playing in the U.S. Open, Jason Dufner won in major-like conditions with
a 5-under-par 279 at the LaSalle Bank Open – the highest score in relation to par in more than three years on the Nationwide Tour. For Dufner, who hadn’t won in five years, it may as well have been 25 under.
Dufner’s 1-under 70 in the final round June 11 at The Glen Club gave him a one-stroke victory over Cliff Kresge and was his first Nationwide Tour title since winning the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open in 2001. His 5-under total matched the 5 under Joe Ogilvie posted in winning the 2003 Jacob’s Creek Open.
“The biggest source of pride for me is just winning a golf tournament again,” said the 29-year-old Dufner, who pocketed $135,000 and moved from No. 25 to No. 3 on the Nationwide money list. “It has been a while for me and that has bothered me a little bit because I knew I had the game to win again.”
In a back-and-forth battle with Kresge much of the day, Dufner pulled even with “one of the biggest shots of my life” – a 5-iron to 3 feet at the par-3 17th hole that he converted for birdie. Dufner then two-putted for par from 40 feet on the last hole, and watched as Kresge made bogey, failing to make a 23-foot par putt.
Doug LaBelle II (69) and Cameron Beckman (73) finished three shots back at 2-under 282.
Several factors led many players to call the event one of the tour’s major championships. In addition to having the Nationwide circuit’s largest purse, the tournament had large galleries and an Open-like setup that saw only five players break par for the week. Thick rough and fast greens led to a 73.857 stroke average – nearly three strokes above par. Dufner finished the week tied for second in greens in regulation at 69.4 percent – an important stat on such a difficult layout.
“This tournament just keeps getting better and better,” Dufner said. “I definitely feel like it is one of our major championships and that makes the victory even sweeter.”
The victory virtually guarantees Dufner’s first trip to the PGA Tour since his rookie season of 2004.
“To get back to the PGA Tour is great but just winning again is what means the most to me,” said Dufner.
No matter what the score.
Fast start: Nicholas Thompson, stepping back for a week from what has been a rough rookie season on the PGA Tour, made The Glen Club look easy in Round 1 when he fired a 7-under-par 64 to take a two-shot lead. It was the lowest score of the week.
“I couldn’t be any happier with the way I played today,” the former Georgia Tech All-American said.
Thompson, 23, hasn’t been able to say that a lot during his first season on the PGA Tour, something that has been
a definite learning experience. He has made four cuts in 14 starts, with his
best effort a tie for 55th at the Honda Classic, and ranks outside the top 200 in earnings. But a putter change three weeks ago has helped psychologically and on the scorecard.
Thompson shot 3-over 74 in Friday’s windy conditions, though he still shared the lead with Richard Johnson, then finished 74-72 to finish in a six-way tie for sixth at even-par 284. He earned $22,688, his biggest check of the year.
Short shots: Dufner’s 5-under total was 10 strokes higher than the previous high winning score at The Glen Club. Chris Couch won with a 15-under total in 2005. . . . Kim Felton (68) had the only bogey-free round Sunday, bringing the total of such rounds to three for the week. . . . Tripp Isenhour had a hole-in-one with a 4-iron from 172 yards on the par-3 17th hole Sunday. Thanks to a LaSalle Bank promotion, a randomly selected fan, David Brown, received $25,000, and tournament charities the Sunshine Through Golf Foundation and the Les Turner ALS Foundation each received $12,500. . . . The cut came at 6-over-par 148, equaling the highest cut of the year. . . . Johnson Wagner, at 7-over 149, missed his first cut of the season. Wagner had made
11 consecutive cuts this year and 14 in
a row dating to the 2005 season. . . . University of Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, playing on a sponsor exemption, parred the final hole to make the cut on the number. He finished T-72. Dan Forsman was disqualified for failing to show for his third-round tee time.
– Staff and wire reports
On the tee
Next up: Chattanooga Classic, June 22-25, Black Creek Club, Chattanooga, Tenn. 2005 champion: Jason Schultz
The buzz: Last year, Schultz needed six playoff holes to outlast Joe Daley. Look for the winner to go low. The highest winning score in the three years of this event has been 21-under 267.