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Dufner Will Roll With Big Change

PITTSFORD, NEW YORK | There is more to Jason Dufner than meets the eye. Like a pulse. He has one. It may not thump like a jackhammer except when he stares at a three-footer for par on the first hole like the one he faced Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club, but it’s there. PGA Championships aren’t won without a heartbeat even if it’s shrouded by a face that conveys as much emotion as those on Mount Rushmore. Jason Dufner knows who he is and he’s comfortable with that. He loves him some Auburn football, likes to pack a dip behind his lower lip and knows more about a lot of things than you might suspect when you watch him on the golf course or think about his now-famous Dufnering pose. “I come across as a pretty cool customer but there were definitely some nerves out there,” Dufner said Sunday evening, his silver PGA Championship trophy gleaming in the television lights illuminating him. We’ll have to take him at his word. Dufner doesn’t have Tiger’s ferocious style. He doesn’t have Mickelson’s way with fans. He doesn’t bounce like McIlroy. Dufner just walks and waggles. He looks a bit like a Muppet with his round face, his big eyes, that tiny divot of whiskers beneath his lower lip and all that hair trying to get out from beneath the cap he pulls down almost to his nose. Before he won the PGA Championship by shooting a 2-under-par 68 on Sunday, the only player among the top eight entering the final round to break par, Dufner was almost a cult hero. Now, he’s a genuine star not just because he’s brilliant on Twitter and was savvy enough to turn the Dufnering thing into an asset, but because he can play. His pairing with third-round leader Jim Furyk on Sunday was a study in contrasts. Furyk is the ultimate grinder, gears practically turning on his face as he plots each shot, stepping in and out and in and out before actually making a swing. It works for Furyk but it’s difficult to watch and there’s a mechanical way about how he plays, as if he’s plotting each shot on graph paper. Dufner is smooth as a good milkshake. He never appears hurried or flustered. When he settles over a shot, he looks for a moment like a conductor starting an orchestra the way he waves the club back and forth before making an athletic swing that never seems out of rhythm. The only time Dufner appeared nervous at Oak Hill was over the occasional two-foot putt. Remember Friday when he left his 12-foot birdie putt for the first 62 in major-championship history short? He shook the 24-inch par putt into the right side of the hole. There were a couple of other times during the weekend when Dufner looked less than certain over a short one but he got most of them in the hole. He ranks 163rd on Tour in strokes gained-putting, which explains why he’s been good but not great this season. He also has a grip on his putter that’s almost as big as one of those swim noodles kids play with in pools. There’s a reason guys use them and it’s not because they believe they’re the best putter in the world. That’s why that three-footer for par at No. 1 Sunday meant so much. It calmed the nerves we don’t see. In explaining himself Sunday, Dufner talked about his passion for watching sports. He studies teams and athletes, particularly LeBron James in the past couple of seasons. He watches their emotion. On the golf course, though, there’s not much to excite Dufner. “It’s pretty matter of fact,” he said. “I hit it in the fairway or I didn’t. I hit it on the green or I didn’t. And I’m usually struggling with my putting so there’s not much to get excited about with that.” Two years ago, Dufner had a five-stroke lead with four holes remaining at the PGA Championship in Atlanta. Three late bogeys and Keegan Bradley’s emergence left Dufner facing a two-hour drive home to Auburn, Ala., that evening with his future wife, Amanda, talking about the one that got away. It bothered Dufner for a little while but he was still getting accustomed to keeping his PGA Tour card and he’d almost made a major championship his first Tour win.


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