From my post-PGA Championship column in 2011: “History is littered with players who had one shot at immortality and came up short.”
Admission: I believed then that Jason Dufner’s name would end up on that trash heap. He’d just lost a five-shot lead with four holes to play at Atlanta Athletic Club. Keegan Bradley had rallied as much as Dufner stumbled and ended up winning the Wanamaker Trophy in a three-hole aggregate playoff.
The stoic Dufner – who until then was a less-famous Auburn golfer than Charles Barkley – seemed to be the only guy in John’s Creek who didn’t think fate had passed him by.
“You know, maybe looking back 10, 15 years from now, I’ll feel disappointment that I let this one get away if I never get another chance,” he said then. “But, I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to have some chances to win some majors.”
Dufner was right. He took that PGA experience and made himself a fixture at the elite level. He won back-to-back tour events in 2012. On Sunday, his belief paid off with a major triumph of his own at Oak Hill.
“It’s pretty neat to come back and win a PGA, to be honest with you,” he said.
Even cooler because he called this two years ago while the rest of us were feeling sorry for him.
“I’m not a history buff as far as golf goes,” he said in 2011. “I know the media tries to define careers on certain players – you did this, and you didn’t do this. I’m not into that. I just play golf. I love playing golf. … And I want to be as good as I can be. If that’s 20th in the world with no majors, or first in the world with 10 majors, or never to win a tour event, I’ll be fine with it.
“You know, coming from where I came from, to be in this position, it’s a dream come true. I could never have imagined playing in major championships, playing with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. That’s a milestone to me itself. I’m not going to let this define my career.
“I have a lot of things ahead of me. … Hopefully I’ll have more time to win majors and use what happened today as a positive.”
Touché. Well played.
And now, the rest of the post-PGA Championship scorecard:
BIRDIE: Keegan Bradley. Turned around en route to the airport to be at Oak Hill to congratulate Dufner. “We have a connection for the rest of our lives because of that playoff,” Bradley said. Pure class.
BOGEY: Jim Furyk. As commendable as it is to keep getting in position to win majors at age 43, you just can’t bogey the last two holes when you’re chasing the leader. Not the closer he once was.
BIRDIE: Adam Scott. Another title might have gotten away, but for the second consecutive year, the Aussie has led aggregate score in all four majors – this time sharing it with Jason Day at 2-over.
BOGEY: Tiger Woods. As great as his five-win season has been at times, Woods looked resigned to a foul fate as he solemnly finished up a T40 to cap another major-less season.
BIRDIE: Henrik Stenson. Third in PGA follows seconds in British and WGC at Firestone, fifth in Players, 18th at Masters and 21st in U.S. Open. Swede had lost his confidence and much of his money (Stanford Group) a few years ago but now leads handily in Euro Tour’s Race to Dubai.
BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. Lefty was kind of a mess all week, making four doubles and two triples to finish 72nd of the 75 who made the cut. But he still has that claret jug to show off to friends.
BIRDIE: Rory McIlroy. The rare birdie-birdie finish on Saturday vaulted the struggling former No. 1 back into relevance. Hopefully the T8 in his PGA title defense is the confidence boost he needs.
BOGEY: Steve Stricker. As nice as they come, but his generosity to fellow leaders on major Sundays continued with a sad 73.
BIRDIE: Dustin Johnson. The 65-69 weekend to finish T8 from off the cut line was a far cry from his 76-77 weekend at Muirfield to fall from T3 to out of contention.
BOGEY: Lee Westwood. Twitter critics ripped him after a Sunday 76 killed his hopes, so Westy went on an overnight rampage against all the nit-twits. Shouldn’t have to apologize for standing up for himself, but it’s yet another forum in which he can’t win.
BIRDIE: Hideki Matsuyama. Another major, another top 20 for the former Asian Amateur champion. T19 at Oak Hill was actually his worst in three major starts as a pro.
BOGEY: Jeff Overton. In another imprudent Twitter rant, the former Ryder Cupper, now 154th in the world, ripped the PGA for not giving him an exemption. Win something, then complain.
BOGEY: Luke Donald. After seeming so close to his own major breakthrough before tanking Sunday at the U.S. Open, the former world No. 1 missed cuts at the British and PGA.
BIRDIE: Kiradech Aphibarnrat. If you hadn’t heard of him before he made brief leaderboard appearances at the British and PGA, perhaps it’s because he used to be an auto racer named Anujit Hirunratanakorn. Now he’s Thailand’s John Daly. Got it?
BIRDIE: Scott Jamieson. First made cut in a major and the former Augusta State star acquitted himself nicely with a T29.
BOGEY: Charles Howell. Only qualified for one major this season – at the place he posted his career best finish (T10) in 2003 – and the Augusta native missed the cut.
BIRDIE: Lee Trevino. Every time a major turned up on storied venues, tales of Merry Mex triumphs at Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill were retold. Nice to be reminded of how great these old legends were.
BIRDIE: Jack Nicklaus. That 18-major mark looks safer every passing year that Tiger stands idling on 14.
BOGEY: Glory’s Last Shot. In bartering with the PGA Tour over future fall scheduling, PGA dumped its familiar slogan for the less poetic “Season’s Final Major.” Gets the heart pumping, doesn’t it?
BIRDIE: 62. It remains major championship golf’s most elusive number after Dufner’s 12-foot putt on Friday came up a foot short and made him the 26th player to do no better than 63 in any major.
BOGEY: USGA. The blue coats chose the eve of the PGA of America’s marquee event to announce a new U.S. Open TV deal with Fox Sports that won’t start until 2015. Really? Violation of Golf Etiquette 101.
BIRDIE: Fox Sports. Ponying up a reported $100 million to build a non-existent golf presence is a pretty big statement. Let’s hope golf fans don’t suffer as a result.
BOGEY: NBC/Golf Channel. Losing its only major is a huge blow. Now imagine just how much Johnny Miller will clamor to brand the Players as a fifth major.