Easygoing Jason Dufner has healthy attitude toward golf
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A crushing disappointment in a major does not automatically squash a golfer's psyche. Despite having lost a five-stroke lead and then a playoff to Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship two years ago, Jason Dufner still is Jason Dufner.
He still has not won a major championship, but he never has lost his languid demeanor. That helped him win two tournaments and make the U.S. Ryder Cup squad last year. Perhaps most surprising of all is that he has become close with the man who cost him so dearly.
"We've played together a lot the last couple of years, we were together on the Ryder Cup team. I go down to Palm Beach and play with him some. We've become friends," Dufner said of Bradley Monday at Oak Hill Country Club, before starting practice for this year's fourth major, the PGA Championship, which begins Thursday.
Dufner can give it to Bradley pretty soundly, on Twitter and in person. "He's an easy target for ribbing. He takes it pretty good," said Dufner, who also is a good sponge for razzing. "I grew up that way. In college, it was that way with guys on the team."
Like everyone else who was at the WGC Bridgestone this past weekend, he was amazed and daunted by Tiger Woods' 61 Friday on the way to an easy seven-shot win. (Woods, rather than resting, arrived here at 3 p.m. Monday, practiced on the range and went out to play with Steve Stricker.)
"Obviously Tiger would love to take what he had last week and bring it here and guys who didn't play as well would like to leave it there," Dufner said. "That's the neat thing about golf. You always have next week."
Former LIer goes first
Rob Labritz, one of three Metropolitan section club pros in this championship, will hit the first shot of the tournament, off No. 1 at 7:10 a.m. Thursday. "I feel blessed, absolutely blessed," he said, pausing on the bridge that leads from the practice green to the driving range to take a photograph of the huge gallery, saying, "Let's stop and smell the roses for a minute."
A former Shinnecock Hills assistant pro who now is director of golf at GlenArbor in Westchester, Labritz is here along with Mark Brown, the head pro at Tam O'Shanter in Brookville, and New York State Open champion Danny Balin, a teaching pro at Burning Tree in Connecticut.
On Monday, Labritz's wife, Kerry, arrived. She is eight months pregnant. Like many golf aficionados and devoted parents (he has a son, 7), Labritz was impressed that PGA Tour pro Hunter Mahan left in the middle of a tournament he was leading two weeks ago in order to be present for the birth of his first child.
"The difference is, [Kerry] knows I wouldn't leave," Labritz said with a smile. "We've talked about that." He noted that he doesn't have the same bank account that Mahan does, or access to a private jet.
Watson a Hill of Famer
Tom Watson, an eight-time major champion and captain of the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team, was inducted into Oak Hill's "Hill of Fame" in which plaques of all-time greats are affixed to big oak trees.