Laid-back Dufner Tames Oak Hill, Earns Sweet Redemption
Jason Dufner looks more like the guy who drives the cage cart at your local driving range than a major champion. He greets clutch birdies like a guy who just found a quarter in the couch cushions.
With a hangdog expression, a slight paunch, a soul patch and a dip of Copenhagen tucked between his lip and gum, Dufner doesn’t electrify like Tiger Woods or inspire like Phil Mickelson. But Duf-man beat Mickelson by 22 shots this week, and he did something Tiger hasn’t done since 2008: He won a major championship in rather dominating fashion.
There would be no Atlanta-style meltdown for Dufner at Oak Hill. Two years ago, Dufner held a five-shot lead on the 15th tee on Sunday at the PGA Championship before finding the water and ultimately major heartbreak at Atlanta Athletic Club, losing in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.
This year, a more seasoned, more confident Dufner put the foot on the throttle with a second-round 63 and never let up, playing precise if not entirely flawless golf on a 1-under par weekend to set the Oak Hill major championship scoring record with a 10-under finish.
“I still can’t believe this is happening to me,” Dufner said after capturing his third PGA Tour win. “To come back from a couple years ago in this championship when I lost to Keegan in a playoff and win feels really, really good.
“It’s such a great course. I decided I was going to be confident. I wasn’t going to play scared or soft. It’s a big step for my career.”
Runner-up Jim Furyk, who held the third-round lead, failed to put any pressure on Dufner, shooting a final-round 71 and bogeying the final two holes. Still, he left Oak Hill without regrets. “I played a solid round of golf,” he said. “Felt like I struck the ball really well on the back nine.”
The Swedish contingent of Henrik Stenson and Jonas Blixt finished third and fourth, respectively. The 37-year-old Stenson continued his resurgence, adding his PGA showing to his runner-up finish at the British Open last month.
• Adam Scott’s T5 finish was his seventh top-8 finish in a major in the last three years and his third major top-5 of the season. Scott was the season’s best major championship performer, posting a cumulative score of 2-over. Jason Day joined Scott as the only players with three top 10s in majors this season; Day added a T8 at the PGA to his third at The Masters and T2 at the U.S. Open.
• Keegan Bradley, who took advantage of Dufner’s meltdown at the 2011 PGA, hung around following his final-round 66 to offer Duf his congratulations.
• Look for Twitter maestro Dufner to play up his major win via social media. The prolific tweeter had fun with the so-called Dufnering craze that he inspired, so a shot of the PGA champ Dufnering with the Wanamaker Trophy should be popping up on your feed if you’re among his 200K-plus followers.
• Defending champion Rory McIlroy flirted with the cut line on Friday before stringing together some birdies to play the weekend, when he shot 67-70 to finish T8 at 4-under. It was easily the best performance in a major this season for McIlroy, who finished T25 at The Masters, T41 at the U.S. Open and missed the cut at the British Open.
• The world’s Top 2 finished in the field’s bottom half. Pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods, so dominant last week at Firestone, never got anything going, playing four lackluster rounds and failing to break 70 in finishing T40 at 4-over par. In fact, in the season’s four majors, Woods broke 70 only once in 16 rounds — a first-round 69 at the British Open. “Is it concerning? No,” Woods said. “It’s more frustrating not being in it.” Meanwhile, Open champion Phil Mickelson had four double-bogeys and two triples on his way to a 12-over finish and a tie for 72nd.
• Major champion in waiting Dustin Johnson had the best weekend of any player in the field, shooting 65-69 after opening 72-71.