Atlanta, GA, United States (AHN Sports) – The best place to start with the 54-hole leaders of the 93rd PGA Championship is introductions.
Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner are not household names in the world of golf but they were the centers of attention on Saturday at the Atlanta Athletic Club as they find themselves the 54-hole co-leaders of this final major of the season.
Steele is a rookie, a first-time winner earlier this year at the Texas Open. He’s the poster boy for lanky at 6-2, 170 pounds. The 28-year-old California native put together a marvelous 66, his third straight sub-70 round to put himself at 203, seven-under after three trips around the beyond-difficult Highlands course.
Jason Dufner has been around a while. He’s 34, an Auburn guy with the double chin and a bit of his belly hanging over his belt and he calms himself with some dip in between his cheek and gum.
Dufner was the Cool Hand Luke of the field as he showed no signs of anxiety or nerves until he had a pair of three putts on the back nine but he made up for those with great birdie putts at the impossible par three 15th and difficult 16th and he closed with a 68 to join Steele at the top.
Dufner has never won on the PGA Tour although he did finish runner-up this year in Phoenix but has missed the cut in his last four events.
Immediately behind the co-leaders is Keegan Bradley who is taller and lankier than Steele. He comes from a golfing family. His dad is a PGA professional and aunt Pat is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and LPGA Hall of Fame.
Bradley made a nervous double-bogey on the opening hole but came back and played steady golf to shoot 69 and get to six-under, 204, by himself. He will play in the next-to-last twosome Sunday with a man old enough to be his father, 47-year-old Scott Verplank.
Verplank is an aging veteran with five tour wins who is only 36 months from the Champions Tour. He fought hard all day, as did those in front of him and he finished with a 69 that included a great par save at the final hole after he was forced to lay up on the brutal par four.
Verplank is by himself at four-under par, 206.
Anders Hansen from Norway and Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner D.A. Points are four off the lead at three-under, 207.
David Toms had the day’s best round, a 65 that got him to two-under par, 208. He’s in a group with Adam Scott, Masters champ Charl Schwartzel, John Senden and Robert Karlsson.
The world’s top player, Luke Donald, will start a half dozen shots off the lead. He’s in at one-under along with six other players, including Jim Furyk, who found the water at the 15th and 18th holes and wound up with double-bogeys on both holes that proved costly.
Steele was comfortable as he talked about his spot at the top. “It’s been a wild ride over the past year,” he said as he earned his way from the Nationwide Tour. “This is something,” he said of his co-ownership of the lead.