Dufner Has The Answer

PITTSFORD, NEW YORK | His heart rate must be little more than flatline and his blood pressure has to be no higher than 60/40. Either that or Jason Dufner uses more than his hat and his haircut to hide what’s going on between his ears. Even in winning the PGA Championship on Sunday afternoon, Dufner looked like he had just been asked a question to which he didn’t know the answer. Except that he had just answered the question he must have asked himself over and over since he bogeyed away the 2011 PGA Championship down the stretch to Keegan Bradley. In fact, Bradley was one of the first to embrace Dufner after he holed the final putt, a tap-in bogey that won him his first major championship by two shots ahead of what must be by now a beaten-up Jim Furyk. Even though he bogeyed the final two holes, Dufner still played well enough to win, shooting a 2-under 68 in Sunday’s final round to finish 72 holes at Oak Hill Country Club in 270, 10-under par. Dufner was just as unknown as Bradley was in 2011 when he frittered away a five-shot lead with four holes to play at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club. He bogeyed three straight holes beginning at the 15th and lost to Bradley in a playoff. “You always carry those little scars with you,” Dufner said. “But I always felt like that would make me a more confident player the next time that happened.” Over the ensuing year, he won twice, made the 2012 Ryder Cup team and was mentioned often as one of the players in the second tier of future stars of the game. With Sunday’s victory, Dufner’s view by others and of himself will change. “I’m sure that I will have a lot of opportunities because of this,” Dufner said. “But I’m determined that it’s not going to change me. “I don’t think you can claim to belong in a group of players who win major championships until you’ve done it.” Majors usually come down to a significant moment, either of heroic nature or a serious blunder. This one came down to the latter. Dufner had a two-shot lead with two holes to go and Furyk pulled his second shot to the left of the 504-yard, par-4 17th, short-sided in the thick rough. Dufner was on the green about 40 feet away. Furyk, going for the heroic shot, dumped his pitch short of the green, leaving it in the high rough. He chipped to inches for a bogey 5. There’s no guarantee Furyk would have gotten the ball up and down for par, even with a good shot, but we’ll never know. Even though Dufner wound up three-putting the 17th, it still meant that he had a two-shot lead going down the 18th, a hole that was not giving up many birdies. And when both players drove into the rough from the tee, all Dufner needed was to avoid a double bogey and the title would be his. “You get four chances (each year at majors),” said Furyk, who shot 71 on Sunday and ended at 8-under 272. “I told you I was going to view today as an opportunity and, you know, there’s other times I really felt like the tournament slipped through my fingers and out of my grasp and I was definitely disappointed. I played my heart out today. No regrets over it.” It was clear from the beginning of the day that the chasers would need some help from the leaders if they were to have a chance. Nothing of the sort happened. Furyk, who started the day in the lead at 9 under, turned in 35 with a birdie and a bogey. But Dufner made a short birdie at the par-5 fourth and had kick-in birdies at the fifth and the eighth to turn in 11 under, good for a two-shot lead. Furyk could get no closer, even making a 30-footer for birdie at the 16th. Dufner followed that with his third birdie from within a foot to retain the two-shot margin. For most of the day, it was no more than a three-horse race.


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