Steve Stricker has also shot 63 at the PGA Championship. (Franklin/Getty Imagees)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Steve Stricker has been there, done that.
Two years ago, he was the one grinding out 63 at the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club two years ago. In fact, Stricker was so focused he didn't know the 10-footer for birdie he missed at the final hole was to set the major championship scoring record.
On Friday at Oak Hill the man who shot the 25th round of 63 in major history played with the man who would go on to shoot the 26th. And Stricker was able to enjoy watching Jason Dufner's bid a lot more than his own.
"It was a fun round of golf to watch Jason play," Stricker said. "He played flawlessly really all day. ... I was in that position a couple of years ago and, you know, there's something about that magical 63 mark to try to surpass. It was a lot of fun to see."
Dufner got things rolling when he holed a sand wedge from 105 yards for an eagle at the second hole. He added five birdies, the last courtesy of a 6-footer at the 16th hole, and had two chances for the elusive 62 -- leaving his 12-footer on the final hole a foot short of the cup.
Stricker knows how Dufner feels.
"Yeah, I literally didn't even think about the putt that I had on the last to break the mark," Stricker said. "I was just so engrossed in what I was doing and shooting the lowest score possible that I really didn't even pay attention to how many under I was and what I was shooting at the time.
"So I was able to kind of enjoy Dufner's more than I was able to enjoy mine. But it was tough to see him leave that last putt short."
Stricker wasn't surprised to see that 12-footer miss, though. After all, 96 players had teed off before them, and the greens, saturated by heavy morning rain, were a "little chewed up" he said.
"Any putt uphill into the grain became difficult because of all the heal prints and the marks on the greens because the greens were so soft from the rain," Stricker said. "I wish he would have gotten it to the hole and had a better chance at it."
Stricker, who trails Dufner by four after Friday's 67, said there was a lot of banter on the course. Dufner may appear to have ice water in his veins but Stricker, who has played on a Ryder Cup team with the Ohio native, knows what kind of a competitor he is.
"He was aware, for sure," Stricker said. "He's very calm. I'm sure he was churning on the inside. He just told me while we were signing our cards he was like, 'This is a lot for a Friday.'
"He hits some great shots when he had to. The putt that he hit at 17, I thought he made. I thought he hit that perfectly. I thought it was going to go to the right at the end and it kind of straightened out and went a little to the left at the end. He had two really good looks at it to break the record."
Matt Kuchar, who is tied with Adam Scott and Jim Furyk two shots off the pace, was playing immediately behind Dufner. So he and Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler had a bird's-eye view of the shot at history.
"It was really kind of cool," Kuchar said. "We had three of us on 18 tee kind of talking about the ramifications of what Jason Dufner in the group in front of us could do with a birdie on the last and set the all-time scoring record.
"We're sitting on 18 tee and watched Jason hit his approach shot from the fairway, knew he hit it close by the crowd's reaction. As we walked down to the fairway, we get a chance to watch his putt, all kind of hoping. And I know for me, it would have put him an extra shot ahead, but it would have been pretty cool to see a 62 posted as the lowest round ever in a major championship. It was kind of too bad that he missed it."
Furyk was six groups behind Dufner but he tracked the action on the leaderboards around the course.
"I knew he had 7 under," Furyk said. "I was on the 14th tee right behind 18 green when he hit that second shot. I could hear the roar and knew he had a big putt to shoot the lowest score in major championship history. So I was kind of pulling for him to be honest with you. That's a pretty good feat.
"I saw a tape of it when I was in the scoring tent. I realize he left the putt short, but great round. I guess, you are never surprised when conditions are good, great players find a way. Someone finds a way to shoot a low number.
"Today it happened it was a bunch of guys but Jason fired the best one."