PGA Championship 2013 Winner: Jason Dufner Lets His Game Do All the Talking
Jason Dufner is a man of few words and even fewer outward emotions. Given how loud his golf game was at Oak Hill Country Club this week, he didn't need either.
Two days after becoming just the 24th golfer to shoot a 63 in a major championship, the soft-spoken and stoic Dufner captured his first major title in the 2013 PGA Championship with a two-under 68 on Sunday.
In the process, he set a 72-hole major championship scoring record on the famed Donald Ross course, finishing the championship at 10 under—two better than final-round playing partner and 54-hole leader Jim Furyk.
That performance at Oak Hill was a rather large step forward for a golfer who’s better known as a social media phenom than a golfing one.
Earlier this year, the golfer created a stir on the web when a photo of Dufner slumped up against a wall in a classroom while a teacher taught relaxation techniques came out. The pose was quickly dubbed “Dufnering,” and it swept the nation.
After his week at Oak Hill, that term should take on a whole new, and far more appropriate, meaning. Dufner said on Sunday, via USA Today's Steve DiMeglio:
I come across as a pretty cool customer, I guess, but there are definitely some nerves out there, especially when you're trying to win a major championship. But I felt good after I made that putt on the first hole, I would say I was pretty flat-lined for most of the day. My name will always be on this trophy, and nobody can take that away from me, so it's a great accomplishment for me, and I'm really excited about it.
With all of the attention focused on sexy storylines involving Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy heading into the season’s final major, Dufner’s easy-as-it-goes style got it done at Oak Hill.
He drove the ball about as well as anyone could, his iron play was solid throughout, and he elevated his putting to a career-best level.
Yet more than anything else, the newly crowned PGA champion showed that his easygoing demeanor on the outside doesn't mean he lacks the heart of a champion on the inside.
RT @ColemanMcDowell: Mike Griffin, Dufner's coach at Auburn, told me Jason "has done it the right way and done a remarkable job of it."— Golf.com (@si_golf) August 12, 2013
Facing all of the pressure in the world during his amazing second-round assault on history, Dufner never faltered. He hit every shot he wanted down the stretch and ended up just one short birdie putt away from becoming the first golfer to ever shoot a 62 in a major.
He followed that performance with a gutsy 71 on Saturday to remain within a shot of the lead after 54 holes.
With former U.S. Open champion Furyk pushing him the entire way Sunday, Dufner maintained that steely resolve under even more intense pressure. The two-time PGA Tour winner avoided a single bogey through the first 16 holes of the final round and recorded four birdies in the process.
By the time he finally relented and bogeyed the final two holes of the championship, the matter had already been decided.
"It's definitely going to change my life, but I'm determined that it's not going to change me," he said, via USA Today.
Now that’s vintage Dufner. Understated and unassuming, yet direct and to the point. On its own, Sunday’s victory was a huge accomplishment. Yet given the disappointment Dufner suffered in a previous PGA Championship, it was all the more impressive.
Leading by five shots with four holes to play in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Dufner collapsed down the stretch and ultimately lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.
Since that devastating setback and before Sunday’s victory, the closest Dufner came to a major championship were two fourth-place finishes at the U.S. Open (2012, 2013).
Given his nature, we’ll never know the complete toll that loss took on him, but the beneficiary from the 2011 collapse certainly delighted in watching Dufner come through at Oak Hill.
Dufner doesn't come with the raw emotion of Tiger or the engaging personality of Mickelson. And he proved you don’t really need either of them to succeed.
Rather, the newly minted major champion prefers to let his golf game do all the talking for him.
This week at Oak Hill, it said all he needed it to.
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