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Sports

Relative unknowns Steele, Dufner share PGA lead

August 14, 2011

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— Brendan Steele and Jason Dufner at least can make a name for themselves in the PGA Championship. Until that big trophy is handed out today, however, this major remains very much a mystery.

How will they handle the pressure of the final round?

Can they safely navigate through the four-hole finish, considered among the most brutal of any course?

And just who are these guys, anyway?

Rarely has a major championship contained so much inexperience at the top going into the final round. Steele is believed to be the first rookie since John Daly in the 1991 PGA to play in the final group of a major.

Steele, already a winner this year on the PGA Tour and No. 121 in the world, showed remarkable poise Saturday by overcoming a double bogey on the seventh hole. He ran off four birdies over his next seven holes, and not even a safe bogey on the 18th could take away from a 4-under 66 to give him a share of the lead.

He is tied with Jason Dufner, who, at 34, is still looking for his first PGA Tour win. Dufner, stoic as ever with a chunk of tobacco jutting out from his bottom lip, atoned for a pair of three-putt bogeys on the back nine with back-to-back birdies. He only missed one green in the third round and shot 68.

They were at 7-under 203, one shot clear of Keegan Bradley, a 25-year-old rookie who also won earlier this year. Bradley, playing in the final group, opened with a double bogey, which might have been expected given his inexperience. He also bounced back with remarkable resiliency, playing bogey-free on the back nine and rallying for a 69.

Now comes the hard part.

Never mind that only one of the top 10 players in the world is within four shots — Steve Stricker, who shot 69 and was three behind. Or that Tiger Woods, defending champion Martin Kaymer and British Open champion Darren Clarke all missed the cut. Or that U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy blew up in a round of 74 and was out of contention.

Atlanta Athletic Club is the kind of course that can take shots away without notice. Jim Furyk discovered that by putting three balls into the water on the last four holes for a pair of double bogeys.

“Wishy-washy play is not going to get it done,” Steele said

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