JOHNS CREEK, Georgia - Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship after staging an amazing comeback to force a three-hole and beat Jason Dufner at Atlanta Athletic Club.
It was the second career victory for the PGA Tour rookie, who becomes the first player since Ben Curtis in 2003 to win a major in his first major appearance and only the third player in at least 100 years to win one in his first try.
Bradley, the newphew of LPGA legend Pat Bradley, also became the first person to win a major the year after graduating from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour.
Bradley holed a four-foot birdie putt at the first playoff hole, the par-four 16th, to hold an early advantage over Dufner who missed his attempt there from six feet.
Though Bradley could only par the tricky 160-yard 17th where a large pond guards the front of the green, he found himself two strokes ahead after Dufner ran up a three-putt bogey.
Bradley then sealed victory with a two-putt par at the treacherous 18th after Dufner had drained a 20-foot birdie putt to keep his slim chances alive.
“I can’t believe it,” Bradley said. “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.”
Dufner, winless in 147 tour events and struggling to make a cut since last May, appeared to have it locked up the championship in regulation when Bradley chipped into the water at the 15th and took a triple bogey.
But Bradley pulled himself together, making clutch birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. Dufner fell apart, beginning at the 15th when he dunked his tee shot in the pond right of the green. That began a stretch of three straight bogeys, throwing away what at one time was a five stroke advantage.
“I just kept telling myself, 'Don’t let that hole define this whole tournament,'" said Bradley.
Dufner managed to make par at the final hole, leaving him tied with Bradley at 8-under 272, setting up a three-hole playoff.
“A lot of experience to be gained from that,” a dejected Dufner said.
“I don’t feel like I was nervous. I knew what was at stake. I was confident with my game but just didn’t quite execute a couple of shots coming in."
It was the fourth three-hole playoff in the year’s final major, following those in 2000, 2004 and last season when Germany’s Martin Kaymer edged out Bubba Watson at Whistling Straits.
The win also snapped a string of six straight majors without an American victor, the longest drought in the modern era.
It was also the seventh straight major won by a player who had never before captured a Grand Slam event, the longest streak in history.
Bradley, who became the first major champion to use a long putter, can only hope more will follow.
“I don’t want to be one of the guys that kind of disappears,” Bradley said. “I would love to be up in a category with the best players and be mentioned with Phil Mickelson, one of my idols. I hope I don’t disappear. I don’t plan to.”
Denmark’s Anders Hansen closed with a 66 to finish alone in third place at seven under - his lone bogey of the final round on the 16th hole kept him out of the playoff.
Robert Karlsson got within one shot of the lead with a 5-foot eagle putt on the 12th hole. The Swede never made another birdie, though, and finished with three straight bogeys for a 67, tied with 2001 champion David Toms.
Scott Verplank holed out a bunker shot on the 16th and was tied with Bradley going to the 17th, but his tee shot bounced off the wall and into the water for a double bogey. He closed with a 70.
Files from the Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report