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Dufner Moves on After Final Round at PGA Championship
Jason Dufner has left last week's PGA Championship in his rear-view mirror. On Sunday, the Auburn, Ala., resident enjoyed a five-stroke lead on the back nine in the year's final major, only to bogey three of the final four holes to fall into a tie with a suddenly resurgent Keegan Bradley at Atlanta Athletic Club.
The two then entered a three-hole aggregate-score playoff, the second consecutive year that's happened in the PGA Championship. After nearly holing out from the fairway on the first overtime hole - the 475-yard par-4 16th at the Highlands Course, Dufner saw his ball roll 8 feet past the cup. Bradley then knocked his approach to 5 feet. Dufner missed his birdie try, while Bradley made his to grab the momentum he'd never relinquish.
With a bogey on the next hole, the par-3 17th - which Bradley parred, Dufner was suddenly two strokes down and in need of a miracle on the brutal 507-yard, par-4 18th to win not only his first major title but his first victory ever on the PGA Tour. Gamely, Dufner sank his birdie try. But Bradley - a rookie on Tour - two-putted for par to secure his second win of the season.
After coming up short, Dufner evinced considerable class Sunday evening in Atlanta, congratulating Bradley on his big triumph and saying, "I'm disappointed now, but there's a lot of good things to take from this week."
The best thing about the PGA Tour is there's almost always another tournament within a few days, so players need short memories in order to achieve consistent results. On Tuesday at the site of this week's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., the 34-year-old Dufner showed that he's resilient and taking the setback in stride.
"Everybody that's kind of come up to me, I almost feel like it's a funeral or something tragic, like you said, happened," he said of the reaction after the PGA. "I don't feel that way at all. It was a great experience. Unfortunately I wasn't able to win that event, but I had a great chance, best opportunity probably to win a Tour event, so I feel good.
"I made contact with the golf ball on the first tee, so that was nice. Didn't whiff any putts or didn't lose my golf game overnight because of what happened on Sunday. I think maybe the media plays into that a little bit."
Here's what else Dufner had to say during his session with reporters at Sedgefield Country Club, site of the Wyndham Championship, which starts Thursday.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jason Dufner to the media center. You're about to make your sixth start here at the Wyndham Championship. Talk about your thoughts coming into the week and you've just played nine holes, so talk about the course.
JASON DUFNER: Right, I've been playing this, like you said, six years. I think this tournament, the Wyndham Championship, is a nice event, kind of the prelude to the beginning of the Playoffs here next week. This golf course, Sedgefield, a really classic Donald Ross golf course. I feel like it fits my game pretty well. I think I've had a top 25 here in the past. I enjoy coming to this area and playing golf, and it's good prep for the beginning of the Playoffs, like I said, next week.
The golf course today was really good, greens were a bit slower than what I had last week in Atlanta, which is probably a good thing. But this time of year with the heat, the greens probably might not be as fast as the tournament and the players would like, but it's still a good test and going to be a good scoring event. I think you're going to see some low scores. Guys can be aggressive, which is kind of a different feel from last week, which is good. It changes up things a little bit, and it'll be another good test of golf.
Q. Where is your mind right now? Do you feel like you've just come through a tragedy or something? Do you let yourself think like that?
JASON DUFNER: No, not really. It's been kind of a weird experience. Everybody that's kind of come up to me, I almost feel like it's a funeral or something tragic, like you said, happened. I don't feel that way at all. It was a great experience. Unfortunately I wasn't able to win that event, but I had a great chance, best opportunity probably to win a Tour event, so I feel good. I made contact with the golf ball on the first tee, so that was nice. Didn't whiff any putts or didn't lose my golf game overnight because of what happened on Sunday. I think maybe the media plays into that a little bit.
And maybe some guys are different; maybe some guys would feel like it was a tragedy. But I don't really look at it that way. I'm disappointed with not being able to finish that tournament off with a W, but I'm a professional golfer, I'm going to continue to be a professional golfer. There's many more events to play in on this Tour, on any tour. It doesn't really matter to me. I've been a golfer for 10 years, and I'm going to continue to be a golfer.
Q. Have you kept up with the media response to it, and has it been fair?
JASON DUFNER: A little bit. I don't really know what fair would be. I think all the questions that have been asked from me have been pretty honest, and people are trying to do their job. They want to, I guess, get in my head and see where I'm at, and I feel like I'm pretty confident and pretty good about it. I don't see how you can see anything negative from losing in a playoff in a major, other than not winning. There's a lot of good things that happened last week. I think I showed a lot of people in the world that I can play some pretty good golf, and I probably showed myself that I can play a lot of good golf.
Q. Aside from the media reaction, what kind of reaction have you had from your peers and maybe people you meet in the airport or whatever?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, everything has been really, really positive. At first people seemed a little hesitant maybe, they don't know what to say or what to ask, which is probably pretty fair on their part. People that know me well, they've been a little bit more easy with it because they know my personality, my style. A lot of the response has been really, really nice. People have said a lot of good things about post-round interviews, the way I handled myself, and even how I played. So most of that has been real positive and real accepting, and a lot of great comments and thoughts.
Q. Did anybody in particular stand out?
JASON DUFNER: Probably the most exciting thing that happened to me yesterday was I've been close with some of the football coaches at Auburn, and they called me up to come up to the football complex. They had a day off yesterday, and I walked into one of the auditoriums and the whole team was in there, and they gave me a standing ovation. So that's pretty cool. For me, I don't know a lot of those guys personally as far as the players go, but the coaches, and for them to take time out from their training to get ready for the season coming up in a couple weeks and to hear them talk about, oh, I was watching, and guys you wouldn't expect to be watching -- you wouldn't expect a 320-pound defensive lineman to be watching golf on Sunday, but they were. And for the coaches to take time out of their meetings and practice on Sunday saying we were checking text messages, watching when we could, that was a pretty neat experience for me. So that was probably the biggest thing that stood out for me yesterday.
Q. A lot of the talk about this tournament is how strong the field is. Aside from you, who do you think is the player to beat this weekend? And given the momentum, if you choose to look at it that way, that's the way you've been talking about this, that you played well, you're focusing on the fact that you finished second in a major, how much do you think that might help you this weekend?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I think it'll be a strong part. To me, playing that well, I feel like I'm in good shape as far as the game of golf goes. I'm pretty confident with my golf game right now after last week. I'm pretty comfortable on this golf course. So I think it'll be a good stepping-stone for me. Obviously there's going to be a premium on low scores, so for me staying patient if you're only maybe 1-under through 9 or 2-under through 15 holes would be a premium because I know guys tend to step on that gas pedal, so to speak, on this golf course and shoot some low scores, and that will be a different feeling than last week because last week par was such a good score. This week you're going to have to make some birdies.
As far as the field, I haven't seen the field list, so I couldn't really break it down for you, but I'm sure there's a lot of good players. Like I was saying last week, each of the fields out here every week, I feel like there's a lot of guys who can win the event. It could be any one of these guys' weeks. I know there's some bigger names that are maybe struggling a little bit with their game this year, looking to stay in the Playoffs or get into the Playoffs, so maybe that could be a stepping-stone and some motivation for some of those marquee names that are in the field this week. I think Ernie Els might be here and some other names like that. They could use this event to springboard themselves into those Playoffs and get some confidence and get rolling with their game.
Q. Were you scoreboard watching at all the other day?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I saw the scoreboard. The first time I noticed it I think was on 13. They have one right there kind of where that pin was on the front right, and I think at the time I was 10-under, which got me -- yeah, I think I was one shot or two shots ahead. I know that some of the earlier players like Karlsson and Hansen had some nice rounds going. I think at that moment I was aware that I was in the lead with a one- or a two-shot lead. I don't remember exactly what it was, and then I made birdie there.
So I knew where I was. I knew that I was in control of that golf tournament, and I saw that Keegan had had some problems on 15, like I had said before. I knew he had made double, I didn't realize he tripled. To be honest I didn't know if it was a three- or a four- or somebody said it was a five-shot lead at one point. I didn't realize that's where it was. I was really focused on trying to make some good swings and finish that tournament out. I think it's important. Some guys don't like to look at it. I don't mind looking at it. I think it gives you a fair assessment of where you're at. You can't really lie about what a leaderboard is saying. And guys play a little different. If you're one shot back you're probably going to take more chances coming in than if you were two shots ahead, so I think that's important as far as strategy and finishing out the golf tournament.
Q. Do you think last week will change you as a golfer, good or bad? Are you curious to find that out this week?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I think the only thing you can do with that is time will tell. It's hard to put an educated answer on that. I think it'll make me a better player. I know that there's been a lot of guys -- I feel like there's been more guys who have lost leads or lost tournaments in that situation and then have had greater finishes in the future than guys that have lost leads and you never heard of again. You've seen Rory McIlroy is a good example at the Masters this year, had -- I don't know exactly what his lead was going into the back nine, but it didn't end the way that he would have liked. And then a couple months later he wins the U.S. Open in record fashion. There's lots of examples, I think, of that, more than the other side of people -- you never hearing of them again.
Q. There were whispers a few weeks ago that maybe Tiger Woods would end up playing this, being one of those guys who might need a strong showing to make it into the FedEx Cup. Given the fact he did not make the cut at the PGA and is not here this week, do you think golf fans will ever see the same Tiger Woods that they saw five, six years ago?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, you know, that's a tough question right now. It doesn't look that way, but I wouldn't put anything past Tiger Woods. I think Tiger Woods as a golfer has probably spoiled the media, spoiled golf players. The media and the average golf fan don't realize how good that guy was, and you can't realize it until you're playing golf tournaments and playing against him. For what he did, for the amount of time that he did, I don't think you'll ever see a stretch of golf like that again possibly. He was dominant, and people knew it. And right now he's a little bit low on his game. He's battled some injuries, his game isn't where he wants it to be, but I don't put anything past the guy. I fully expect him to rest up, get healthy, get his game right and come out here and start playing really well again.
MODERATOR: Thanks for taking the time, Jason. Good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.