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Redemption for the “Duff Daddy” (Jason Dufner) the 2013 PGA Championship winner!

By: Simon Reynolds

There was redemption for Jason Dufner, the winner of The 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, East Course, Rochester, New York on Sunday evening, 11th August 2013.

 

Fearless Driving from Jason Dufner all week

A fine display of total driving from Jason Dufner all week.

Jason Dufner is the champion of the final major of the 2013 golf calender. Dufner has been a consistent performer over the years on the PGA, racking up an impressive $15 million in career earnings including; 3 tournament wins and 27 top 10 finishes. Winning his first major at the ripe old age of 36, some would say he is a late bloomer, but for fellow professionals it was simply a matter of time before he won a major.

 

In fact, Phil Mickelson had tipped Jason Dufner to be in contention before this years’ event, complementing on his accuracy off the tee and consistent ball striking as key attributes for winners at the infamous Oak Hill East Course in Rochester, New York.  Dufner first came into the major spotlight at the 2011 PGA Championship, he lost a 5 shot lead with 4 holes to play to Keegan Bradley. Going into the last few holes with a two shot lead over Jim Furyk the tension was evident and US broadcasters helped to further intensify the action by showing footage of Dufner’s 2011 PGA meltdown. Dufner refused to succumb to the nerves, which cost him his first major in 2011.

 

The Par three 15th hole is good example. At the 2011 PGA the final holes included a long Par three, not far off 250 yards, with a large water hazard on the right side of the green. Here at Oak Hill in 2013, the par 3 15th, is a similar challenge, over 225 yards, with water all down the right of the green. In 2011 Dufner plonked his approach into the hazard with a nervy swing, which was the beginning of the end. This year, Dufner went through his usual routine, full of self-assurance, with his customary club waggles, before sending a long iron pin high to the left of the green. The 2013 PGA Championship is redemption for this humble and unassuming golfer who may now put to rest the demons of the 2011 event and can move forward with his stellar golf game and stoic persona.

 

Oak Hill is a long course but not huge for pro standards, the last two Par 4 holes are testament to its length and challenge, with the 17th and 18th measuring approximately 500 yards from tee to green. It’s the size of the fairways; which proved the biggest challenge for players all week with some only 20 yards in width. Dufner played with controlled aggression all week, opting for the driver more often then not hitting many a fairway with only one real blemish of the tee, during the third round on the fifth hole, resulting in a one shot penalty after finding the water from the tee. Dufner’s swing is a joy to watch, and its similarity to the great Ben Hogan is somewhat uncanny. He is a self confessed student of Ben Hogan, studiously learning from the legends books and videos earlier in his career, and still turns to the late legend for guidance today. Dufner’s swing today has many similarities to Hogan’s. Both are small in stature but generate powerful swings from a flat, wide and powerful golf swing, and the fullest of follow through extensions. Dufner is not particularly long off the tee ranked 112th on the PGA tour.  However with his accuracy he combines it with decent distance  for impressive total driving stats; which allows him to be aggressive with his club selection on tight fairways and he has no fear in using his driver even on the tightest of fairways during competition play. This gave him the edge all week to attack tricky pin positions, when fellow competitors were further back having tee’d off with 3 woods or hybrids.

 

A blistering second round and a new course record 63 was the highlight of a superlative week and a true showcase of ball striking for Jason Dufner. On Friday afternoon many golfers took advantage of the favourable weather conditions. Earlier in the day, Webb Simpson had equalled the course record with a 64 joining Ben Hogan and Curtis Strange as joint course record holders. Incredibly Dufner, not one for showing much emotion on the golf course, was an easy 10ft putt away on the 18th green on Friday to make it a record breaking 62, a low score yet to be achieved at a major championship. Putting remains the one and only weakness to his golf game, and a tentative stroke on the final green prevented Dufner from breaking history. Dufner joins 25 other players to have shot 63 in a major. This magnificent round of golf gained momentum when he holed out from the fairway with a sand wedge from 105 yards on the 2nd hole for eagle. This magnificent shot brought hardly a smile from the ever-present poker face. Shooting 63 doesn’t guarantee success, surprisingly of the 25 players to have shot 63 in a major only 5 went on to win the tournament:  Johnny Miller was the first golfer to shoot a 63 in a major championship, he came back from six shots back in the final round at Oakmont Country Club in 1973 U.S. Open to win. In the PGA Championship, both Raymond Floyd in 1982 and  Tiger Woods in 2007 recorded 63s at Southern Hills Country Club and went on to victory.

 

Us Golf Fans enjoy a down to earth champion, and Jason Dufner certainly fits the bill. Off the course “Duff Daddy” shows a quiet and unassuming persona, and leaves his actions on the golf course to do the talking. All week Dufner treated us with fearless driving from the tees and a sumptuous display of precision iron play. His game was an example of how golf can be played, and as he found himself on so many fairways all week he was able to be aggressive with his approach play often peppering the pin positions and consistently  found himself putting for birdies.

 

In the final round Jason Dufner was paired with Jim Furyk, the age-old stalwart of consistency, accuracy and work ethic. Although Jim Furyk often found the fairway from the tee leading to many greens in regulation, his birdie putts were often from the heart of the green after conservative approach shots, and he failed to make enough birdies to win, just enough pars to keep Dufner looking over his shoulder. In contrast Dufner found himself with several makeable putts in the final round, and despite two bogeys on the 17th and 18th, Dufner had made 4 birdies already. His 10 under par total for the week was impressive, but it’s interesting to consider how much lower this could have been if he putted better. Dufner has a tendency to take a long time over short 2-3 foot putts and missed a couple over the course of the weeks play. His tentative putting stroke is a long way short of the confidence he displays in his flowing and aggressive driver and fluid iron play. I will not forget the long pauses from Dufner over short 2-3 foot putts, all adding to the suspense and intrigue of this years final major.

 

It was a nice touch to see, fellow pro, Keegan Bradley the 2011 PGA Champion, waiting green-side to offer a hug to Jason Dufner after he strolled off the 72nd green on the way to getting his scorecard signed. A positive display of sportsmanship in a sport where fellow golfers really are friends and care about each other. Losing the 2011 PGA Championship after having a 5 shot lead would have hurt the Duff Daddy, a nick name prescribed by Keegan Bradley himself, which suits the swagger and coolness of Dufner’s golfing aura on and off the course. Keegan Bradley obviously benefited greatly from Jason Dufner’s capitulation at the 2011 PGA, towards winning his breakthrough rookie season major. However, i’m sure that’s not the only reason they are friends, they both seem to come from the same stable of genuine American golfing pedigree.

 

It would be a safe bet to say if his putting improves we will see a lot more of stone cold, poker faced Jason Dufner on the top of major leader-boards. His aggressive driving from the tee and his swashbuckling irons play was reminiscent of his idol the great Ben Hogan all week. Jason Dufner can hold his head up high after his maiden major victory as he joins the likes of: Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange and Shaun Micheel as previous major winners at Oak Hills, East Course in Rochester, New York. 36 may be old for your first major win, but how old was Ben Hogan when he won his first major?

 

Let us re-live his round two heroics from the second fairway from 105 yards with a sand wedge, with the video below, courtesy of the PGA tour website.

 

 

 

About Simon Reynolds

Simon fell in love with the game of golf at an early age. Watching Happy Gilmore when he was 12, Simon was hooked, and to this day thanks Adam Sandler's genius in the film for his passion for the game. His golfing hero is more refined and mature these days, and he continues his spiritual quest to model his golf game on Ben Hogan's perfect golf swing.

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