Dufner Hopes for More Major Chances


Jason Dufner had the 93rd PGA Championship well in hand with only four holes to go Sunday at Atlanta Athletic Club. After Keegan Bradley chipped his second shot on the 260-yard, par-3 15th across the green and into a pond, leading to a triple-bogey six, Dufner suddenly had a five-shot lead. It looked like the 34-year-old was finally going to get his first victory on the PGA Tour, and a major one at that.

Playing in the final group, Dufner saw Bradley at the drop circle, thinking that the 25-year-old rookie had hit his tee ball into the water and that Bradley got a double. Once the green cleared, Dufner decided to hit a 5-wood. Unfortunately, he pushed his tee shot into the water and took a bogey, the first of three straight. With Bradley carding birdies on his next two holes, Dufner's lead vanished and the two were suddenly tied.

"I didn't know what Keegan was at," Dufner said about his fateful decision to try for the green on the tortuous 15th. "I knew that somebody was at 7. Maybe (Anders) Hansen, did he finish at 7? I saw that he was at 7. I saw that Keegan was on the drop circle, so I just assumed that he had hit his first shot in the water. I thought he hit it close and missed, so double is what I was thinking.

"And, you know, I just didn't hit the shot I needed to hit on that hole. Like I said, I was a little in-between clubs, 3-iron probably would be a better play. But I was trying to kind of hit a soft 5-wood in there on that front side of the green or even get it past the pin, a little bit easier play from there, and I just pushed it a little bit."

Bradley birdied the first hole of the three-hole aggregate playoff, which Dufner parred, and got two pars to a bogey-par finish for Dufner, giving Bradley his second win, the Wanamaker Trophy and a $1.445 million payday. Dufner settled for $865,000 for his runner-up finish.

Afterward, Dufner found some positives from a day in which he had the championship in firm control, only to see it slip from his grasp. "Maybe looking back in 10 or 15 years, I'll be disappointed if I never get another chance," he said. "But I have a feeling I'll have more chances in a major to close one out."

Here's what else the Auburn, Ala., resident had to say to reporters Sunday evening.

MODERATOR: Jason Dufner the runner-up in the 93rd PGA Championship joining us at the Atlanta Athletic Club, Jason finished with a 69 today and came up one shot short in the three-hole aggregate playoff. I know this is not what you hoped would happen but particularly on the final few holes in regulation, take us through that and the playoff, please.

JASON DUFNER: First off, hats off to Keegan coming in there in the last three holes, I think, in regulation. Played great playoff holes and it's probably not the finish I was looking forward to, but if you told me I would play those holes even par for the week, I probably would have taken at the beginning. Just a little disappointed right now, especially 16 and 17. Those are the ones that kind of stick out to me.

MODERATOR: The shot at 15, did you just come off that a little bit.

JASON DUFNER: Yes, a little bit. It's a it tough hole. It's kind of in-between clubs for me. It's between 3-iron and 5-wood. I actually hit the shot like I wanted to. Just started a little bit to the right. Made a good bogey. More disappointed probably about 16 and 17 than 15. Bogey is a good score on 15.

Q. The first time you get there, you ran the putt quite a bit by and the second time you ran it by quite a bit, was it just that that green was faster? What happened?

JASON DUFNER: I don't know. Seemed to be faster. I almost put them both in the water. But it's tough over there. You have a shot to deal with with the tree, you can't really see the slope. I hit some putts in practice from the middle down to that and it seems reasonable to get it close. It wasn't reasonable today, both those putts were well past the hole and not what I was looking for. You would think the second time around it would be a little bit better but it was actually worse.

Q. All week those last four holes were crushing everyone and you played them 3-under par in the first three rounds, how disappointing, shocking, was it to have happen what happened to you and how much were you thinking about it after what happened on 15?

JASON DUFNER: I wasn't thinking about much. I was thinking about trying to win this thing. They are tough holes. Everybody has struggled on them. Unfortunately I had the lead and I struggled on them. It's a little bit disappointing, 16, being in the middle of the fairway, I should hit that green. Didn't. Probably one of the worst iron shots I hit all week. 17, 3-putt. They are just tough, tough holes and unfortunately that was the deciding factor and Keegan made a couple birdies there and I made a couple bogeys.

Q. The first playoff hole you hit it right at the flag, it was right over the edge, and looked like the putt coming back missed on the low side, was it a case of nerves? Can you just talk us through that?

JASON DUFNER: Maybe a little bit, something I struggle with, I tend to hit some putts down and a little bit with a shut face and that's a little bit of a right-to-lefter. I probably started it a fraction left of where I was looking and it actually bounced a little to the left, too, and so it ended up missing. You don't want to be above that hole. I thought I was going to be a lot closer the way the crowd was reacting, it was I think five or six feet past, a tough downhill putt and I just missed my line by maybe a half inch.

Q. 15th hole, Keegan had just tripled 15 in front of you, were you aware of where you stood at that point? I think you might have been 5-up briefly at that point. Did nerves start coming into play there?

JASON DUFNER: Yes, I saw that Keegan had made -- I thought he made double but it turned out to be triple. It's a tough hole. I don't feel like I was nervous. I knew what was at stake. I was confident with my game but just didn't quite execute a couple of shots coming in. I played pretty solid 18th hole, wish I had a little better number to get more aggressive with that pin. But they are tough holes. The one I want back is probably 16 more than anything.

Q. The fact that you and Keegan were in a playoff, some other new names on the leaderboard, does that speak to the depth of the fields now in majors?

JASON DUFNER: Yeah, definitely. We spoke about this a little bit yesterday. There's a lot of good players out here. Keegan is just starting. I believe this is maybe his first major, so that speaks for itself. I don't know what his age is or how long he's been professional, but these fields are deep. A lot of guys can play. There are new names coming out that people should be excited about. It's not all about everybody you see on TV. There's a lot of guys that can really play, and they are going to play really good golf for a long time out here.

Q. Golf history is littered with guys who were one shot from winning a major, and never got it done. I'm sure you've heard story after story after story. How do you come out of this and think, this will not define the rest of my career?

JASON DUFNER: That's a good question. I'm disappointed now, but there's a lot of good things to take from this week. You know, I've got the rest of the Playoffs this week, this year, and I believe this gets me into all of the majors next year so that's a good opportunity to try to win more majors. I'm not a history buff as far as golf goes. 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. I love the competition. 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 ten 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, I'm young, not as young as Keegan is, but I have a lot of time to play golf and hopefully I'll have more time to win majors and use what happened today as a positive.

Q. You mentioned 16, the one you would remember probably the most. Can you take us through what happened there? You said you were in the fairway, but what club?

JASON DUFNER: I was in the fairway, the wind was a little into the right. I think I had 212 or 213 adjusted. Probably should have hit a 5-iron, but went with a 4-iron and just eased off of it, lost it to the right into that bunker to the right, which is not a good up-and-down. Probably the worst iron shot of the week. Just happens. I hate that it happened on, I guess that would be the 69th hole of a major. Would have been a lot better if it was the third hole of a major.

Q. They talk about satisfaction the way you played the first 14 holes, especially sitting on the lead coming into the last round, you played pretty much flawless golf until the shot at 15?

JASON DUFNER: That was nice. Again, ball-striking was good today. I had some putts that I felt like I probably could have given a better chance earlier in the day on the first ten or 11 holes. I played really good golf yesterday, 18 holes; today, 14 holes, 15 holes. You can throw in 18, I think that's a pretty good par there in that situation. You know, there's a lot to be gained from this week. I'm disappointed now but I think once I get home and get some sleep and head to Greensboro, I'll be over it. I know that's hard for you guys to believe but the show goes on. (Laughter).

Q. How hard was it, you had a five-shot lead at one point, and then you lose that; was it difficult to transition from that into the playoff? You hit the two great shots on the first hole, but was it difficult to get into that mode, given that you were up by five at one point?

JASON DUFNER: You know, I didn't even know I was up by five to be honest with you. But I was in the playoff. Playoffs can be won and they can be lost. Each man has a great opportunity and Keegan made a birdie and unfortunately the difference was my 3-putt on 17. So, you know, I felt good. I liked the holes. I played well. I thought I played those holes pretty well, especially the first putt on 17.

Q. Was there any disappointment at that point?

JASON DUFNER: No, there's still an opportunity to win the golf tournament. So, you know, I don't focus on things in the past too much. Maybe I'll think about it a little bit later, but when you're in the moment, you're in the moment. You're thinking about winning this thing. I've still had a chance to win the golf tournament and anything can happen on those three holes. I was still thinking on 18, if I can get a birdie and maybe he can miss one, we can flip-flop in that situation. I didn't feel at any moment was I out of it until he putted to a foot and a half.

Q. You played with Tiger and Phil, as you've said, and you've played with a lot of good players. What did you see in Keegan, looking at him? It takes a lot for guys in that position to hit the shots he hit and make the putts, were you impressed?

JASON DUFNER: Yeah, definitely. One of the things that stands out is he hits it about 30, 40 yards by me, which is a big advantage. He seems to be a really confident player. He had a rough start yesterday, bounced back. I don't know if he shot under par yesterday, possibly he did after that start, so that was a good bounce back, and held his composure after a bad 15th hole, and birdied 16 and 17 to get in that playoff. He's got a lot of good things going for him. He's got a great pedigree with Pat Bradley in his family. So I'm sure he's picked up some things from her about winning and attitude and golf in general. So, you know, he seems like a good kid, and he's probably got a pretty strong future out here.

Q. Just as a follow-up, do you feel that his game from what you've seen is a game like the best players have?

JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it's pretty close. He hit it really well when I played with him yesterday. I would say the only difference I see is the top players maybe have a little bit better short game than him, but I don't want to say anything bad. He definitely has the power. He hits it pretty straight for how far he hits it. I didn't see any wild tee shots, crazy stuff where you're like oh my gosh. He putts good with the belly putter. He's got a lot of things going for him and I think he's going to have a strong future in this game.

Q. In the playoff at 18th, please, how far did you have to the green and what club did you hit?

JASON DUFNER: In the playoff, you said? I had 168 over the water. I'm not sure what the pin was on. All I was worried about was the cover. I think the pin was on maybe 8, so 176,177, a little bit in and to the right and I hit a 6-iron. Better club in that situation. Earlier I think I had I think 192 which made me nervous with a 5. I didn't want to try -- I probably could have pushed it but if I didn't hit it right in regulation, I would probably have rinsed it. Wish I would have had that putt in regulation instead of the playoff.

Q. You nearly holed it on 16 in the playoff there and you had the short putt. Keegan answering it, did that have anything to do with your putt? What happened with your putt? Was it a misread?

JASON DUFNER: Maybe a little bit. He had the easier putt going up the hit. I thought I had stuffed it in there to be honest when you. When I got up there I was a little surprised, five or six feet downhill, a little right-to-left break. Right-to-left breaks are probably a little tougher for me with my putting, with the tendencies that I have and I probably pulled it just a hair and it bounced just a hair left and missed left. He definitely had an easier putt. He was a little bit closer and putting up the hill. Maybe there was a little pressure he put on me, I guess. We are both in a situation that we both know that we need to make those putts to win these tournaments.

Q. What did you know about your position when you stood on the 15th tee and what did you see of what Keegan did down below?

JASON DUFNER: 15, I didn't know what Keegan was at. I knew that somebody was at 7. Maybe Hansen, did he finish at 7? I saw that he was at 7. I saw that Keegan was on the drop circle, so I just assumed that he had hit his first shot in the water. I thought he hit it close and missed, so double is what I was thinking. And, you know, I just didn't hit the shot I needed to hit on that hole. Like I said, I was a little in-between clubs, 3-iron probably would be a better play. But I was trying to kind of hit a soft 5-wood in there on that front side of the green or even get it past the pin, a little bit easier play from there, and I just pushed it a little bit.

Q. I know you don't show much emotion out on the course, is this killing you inside that this one got away from you today?

JASON DUFNER: Maybe a little bit. I don't know. I'm so new to this situation as far as trying to win majors. I probably don't appreciate it as much as I might soon. Like it's hard for me to say. I mean, I'm disappointed in the fact that I couldn't close it out. But, on the other hand, I'm excited because I had a great finish in a major. It's going to open a lot of opportunities for me next year. It proves that I'm playing pretty well going into these Playoffs that they have got coming up here in two weeks. Got Greensboro next week. So those are all good things. You know, maybe looking back ten, 15 years from now, I'll feel disappointment that I let this one get away if I never get another chance. But, I've got a feeling that I'm going to have some chances to win some majors and some other golf tournaments to close one out.

MODERATOR: Jason Dufner, the runner-up in the 93rd PGA Championship. Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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