By Ann Liguori
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We knew Jason Dufner had game. This time in the PGA Championship, the 36-year-old was able to close it out and show the world just how much game he has.
He showed us on Friday in the second round when he broke the course record, carding a 7-under-par 63.
And he showed us in the final round, able to put a shaky third round out of his mind, stepping up with dead-accurate tee shots, precise approach shots and sharp putting to beat Jim Furyk by two strokes for a 10-under 270, the lowest winning score of any major championship ever held on Oak Hill’s East Course. His score beat Jack Nicklaus’s 6-under-par 274 in 1980 and Shaun Micheel’s 4-under 276 in 2003.
Don’t be fooled by Dufner’s stoic demeanor. As expressionless as he is, whether he sinks birdies or bogies, it’s the way he manages his game, the surroundings, the pressure — and it obviously works for him. He could be a bundle of nerves inside. Any golfer would be, playing for the title in a major.
Watching him take so much time setting up even the shortest of putts with a few of the one-footers nearly missing the cup even makes me nervous.
“I was pretty nervous on that first three-footer,” he admitted afterward. “But 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.”
Dufner’s stoic demeanor kind of reminds me of Ivan Lendls’, although not quite as stern looking, when he was dominating men’s tennis. But one thing they both have in common is a great sense of humor once you get know them.
At his press conference, Dufner showed that side of him when he ribbed AP golf writer Doug Ferguson about his shirt. When Doug was about to ask Dufner a question, Dufner said he couldn’t miss him with that shirt on and then he asked him if he got it for free at least?
Dufner proved to be good-natured when Keegan Bradley teased him about handing him the Trophy in the 2011 PGA Championship when Dufner lost to Bradley in the playoffs after having a four-shot lead with four holes to play in regulation.
And Dufner seems to be getting a kick out of the attention that “Dufnering” has garnered. It’s sheer comedy to watch the different poses from pictures that people are sending in of themselves, their dogs, cats, even a bear, in what now is referred to as “Dufnering.” Apparently, it was Rory McIlroy who first tweeted a picture of Dufner in the nonchalant, laid-back position and the rest as they say, is history.
At the awards presentation and in the media room after his win, Dufner immediately thanked all the people on his team who are responsible for his success. He mentioned his wife Amanda several times and you’ve got to appreciate a guy who does that. Highlights from their wedding are actually available to watch online.
For a guy who hit 54 of 72 greens in regulation, playing with just the right amount of aggression, confidence and patience, all the while making his fans wonder what the heck is going on in that expressionless head of his, he certainly makes a refreshing champion.
And an endearing one at that.
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