LA QUINTA, Calif. — Jason Dufner made two great escapes. The first, from Alcatraz, no less.
David Lingmerth got no such reprieve at PGA West’s punishing TPC Stadium Course.
Dufner won the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation with a par on the second hole of a playoff Sunday, taking advantage of Lingmerth’s shot that bounced off the jagged rocks and into the water.
In regulation on the island-green 17th called Alcatraz, Dufner — tied with Lingmerth for the lead — pulled his 8-iron tee shot and thought it bounced into the water. Instead, it settled into a small sandy area between some of the tangled rocks that circle the green.
“I was like, ‘Man, this is a great break I’m going to take advantage of it,'” Dufner said. “`This is what I need. I need this right now. I need this break to happen. I’m confident with what I can do with this shot and I need to make this happen and get a par.'”
He hooked a chip that struck the flagstick and stopped inches away.
“It’s a shot that I’ve hit some, not in the hazard, but something similar,” Dufner said. “You kind of hit that low little spinning one with some check on it.”
On the first extra hole on the par-4 18th with a rock wall and water running the length of the left side, Dufner hit his 3-wood drive near the front lip in a right-side bunker. He blasted out 100 yards to set up a 110-yard third shot that he hit to 11 feet.
“I wanted to hit 6-iron — about 180 to the front there,” Dufner said. “But it was probably a shot I pull off maybe two out of 10 times or three out of 10 times. The other seven or eight times it probably hits the lip or goes in the water.
“I felt like, ‘My wedges have been good, I’m going to play the percentages. If he makes birdie, then he deserves to win. I’ll try and get it up-and-down and extend it.'”
Lingmerth missed his 23-foot birdie try, giving Dufner a chance to extend the playoff.
He did, sending the two back to the 18th tee.
“I like those situation putts,” Dufner said. “It’s kind of like what we see in The Presidents Cup in match play. Because if I miss it, there’s no next putt, it doesn’t really matter.”
Dufner switched to a driver and followed Lingmerth into a grass bunker on the right side. Lingmerth’s approach from 184 yards crashed into the rocks and shot left into the water.
“The rough is a little heavy in some spots and it grabbed my club a little bit more,” Lingmerth said. “It really wasn’t a bad swing. I should have probably choked up a little bit more on the grip. … A small mistake that was very costly.”
Dufner hit the front of the green with his second shot and two-putted for par, holing a 5-footer after Lingmerth missed his par try from 22 feet.
Dufner finished with a 2-under 70 to tie Lingmerth at 25-under 263. Lingmerth shot a bogey-free 65, matching the best score of the day on the difficult course that was used in the tournament for the first time since being dropped after its 1987 debut.
The 38-year-old Dufner won for the fourth time on the PGA Tour and first since the 2013 PGA Championship.
“I’m excited for this year,” Dufner said. “I’m excited to accomplish one of my goals this early in the year. I’m excited to keep playing well. I feel like I’m doing some really good stuff.”
Lingmerth had a 62 on Saturday on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to pull within five shots of Dufner.
“I was just trying to focus on keeping my play the way I had been playing and, if Jason, for some reason didn’t keep scoring the way he did, I was hoping to have a chance,” Lingmerth said.
Lingmerth also lost a playoff in the 2013 tournament on PGA West’s Palmer Private Course. That year, the Swede dropped out on first extra hole after hitting into the water and making a bogey. Brian Gay went on to beat Charles Howell III with a birdie on the second hole.
Phil Mickelson shot a 68 to tie for third at 21 under in his first start since The Presidents Cup in October and first since splitting with swing coach Butch Harmon to work with Andrew Getson. Lefty will play the next three events, starting next week at Torrey Pines in his hometown of San Diego.
“I’m excited,” Mickelson said. “This is a really good week for me for validation that I’m on the right track and that it’s continuing to get better as I go along.”