Low-key Jason Dufner wins PGA Championship for his first major victory
PITTSFORD, N.Y. - The average duffer knows somebody like Jason Dufner, who takes a wristy pre-swing waggle like Ralph Kramden and has a low-key, everyman quality in everything else he does. Truth be told, though, people do not actually know Dufner.
"He's a really, really funny guy. He likes to pick on people all the time. He really likes to have a good time," said his wife, Amanda, who cried on the 18th green Sunday as she congratulated him on winning the PGA Championship.
Under that unruly shock of hair, behind that laconic delivery, aside from that trance-like pose that's become famous as Dufnering, is a fierce competitor and a strong soul. He finished at 10 under par at Oak Hill Country Club, beat Jim Furyk by two shots and, most important, totally reversed the worst moment of his professional life.
Before this weekend, the 36-year-old former walk-on at Auburn was known almost exclusively for his flatline persona and for having blown a five-stroke lead in the final four holes to Keegan Bradley at the 2011 PGA. Since then, Bradley has become a close friend.
"He's a good guy and he's good-hearted about a little ribbing that I give him about that day," Bradley said of the new champion, who idolizes Ben Hogan and has an old-school setup reminiscent of one seen in a "Honeymooners" episode.
Dufner made a resounding U-turn from that nightmare Sunday. He birdied the eighth hole to get ahead of Furyk and never lost the lead. Dufner was steady, going 26 holes without a bogey before bogeying the final two holes Sunday. Dufner had a 6-inch putt to finish off his first major title. "That was right in perfect range," he said after a 2-under-par 68.
Among the first things he did was give what he called a "bro-hug" to Bradley, who had his own change of course -- having headed to the airport, he turned around and sped back to Oak Hill. "I went through red lights," the 2011 champion said.
There had been no stopping Dufner this week. His title run was powered by a 63 Friday, tying the best score ever in a major. He acknowledged that the lead proved heavy, and he trailed Furyk by one entering play Sunday.
As proof that appearances are deceiving, Dufner's heart was pumping rapidly on the first green. "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," he said.
He made his par on the first hole and got settled from there. Dufner hit his approach on the par-4 fifth hole within 2 feet and made birdie. He hit a similar shot on 16.
For his money -- the winner's share was $1,445,000 -- his best moment was saving par from off the green on the par-3 15th despite a tough hole location chosen by fans in an online poll. "I did not particularly care for that hole placement today," he said, typically deadpan.
People who know Dufner best realize that Sunday's ending began two years ago, after the loss to Bradley at Atlanta Athletic Club. "I was probably over what happened in Atlanta, 95 percent of it, by the time we got home to Auburn," he said.
On the trip home this time, he'll carry the silver Wanamaker Trophy and a bunch of Oak Hill acorns, which he hopes will grow into tall trees on his new 50-acre property.
The trash talk at practice rounds is going to blossom into something new, too. "I used to really be able to give him [the business about the 2011 PGA], but now I don't know," Bradley said. "I'm so pumped for him. He deserves this."