- Associated Press - Sunday, April 29, 2012

AVONDALE, La. — Jason Dufner beat Ernie Els with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff Sunday in the Zurich Classic to win for the first time in 164 starts on the PGA Tour.

After entering the fourth round with a two-shot lead, Dufner shot a 2-under 70 at TPC Louisiana. Els had a 67 to match Dufner at 19-under 269.

After both players missed birdie putts within 8 feet on the par-5 18th, they went back to the 18th tee for the second extra hole, which Dufner won by hitting the green in two strokes and tapping home a short birdie putt after Els‘ birdie attempt from the fringe narrowly missed.

Dufner lost playoffs last year to Mark Wilson in the Phoenix Open and Keegan Bradley in the PGA Championship for two of his three career runner-up finishes.


The 6-foot-3 Els, who goes by the nickname “The Big Easy,” hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a little more than two years ago.

He did not have a single bogey in the final round or playoff and would have won his 19th career PGA Tour event in, of all places, the Big Easy, if he could have made a birdie putt of a little less than 6 feet on the first playoff hole. He pushed it more than 2 feet past the edge of the hole.

On the second playoff hole, Els‘ tee shot went into a fairway bunker, and his second shot landed 137 yards from the pin. His third shot landed on the fringe, nearly 19 feet from the pin, but he nearly saved birdie from there, his putt missing by 2 inches.

Dufner then made his birdie putt from less than 2 feet, and in his typically low-key way, briefly raised both arms to acknowledge the cheering crowd before casually walking off the green to accept some congratulatory hugs.

Luke Donald shot a 67 to finish third at 17 under, and move past Rory McIlroy for the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Defending Zurich Classic champ Bubba Watson, playing for the first time since a life-changing win at the Masters over Easter weekend, entered the final round eight shots off the lead. He was unable to mount a charge after bogeys on his first two holes. He wound up tied for 18th at 11 under, a solid outing by most standards, but one of his worst finishes of the year.

Els and Dufner were even at 19 under after 11 holes. Els made par on each of his final seven holes of regulation and Dufner on his final eight.

Els‘ 17-foot birdie putt on 18 missed by about an inch, opening the door for Dufner to win in regulation if he could birdie the 585-yard hole to cap his fourth round.

While Els was on the practice green preparing for a possible playoff, Dufner chipped on to set up a potential winning putt from 10½ feet. He could not convert, however, pushing the ball about a foot past the right edge of the hole.

Entering the day three shots behind, Els began closing in with a birdies on the par-5 second hole and par-4 fifth hole.

Dufner then dropped a stroke when his 8-foot par putt missed by inches on the sixth hole, and Els vaulted into the lead on the par-5 seventh.