Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I just have to give one more acknowledgement to Jason Dufner, the runner-up to Keegan Bradley in Sunday’s finish at the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia.
It’s not for any shots he hit or a particularly gracious speech in losing. It’s for the way he handles himself on the golf course when he plays. He has such a deadpan facial expression, you have no idea what he’s thinking, no idea whether he hit a good or a bad shot. He just objectively takes it in and presses on. As I said in Monday’s post, he was emotionally unresponsive to everything that was happening; he just kept playing without a grimace or even raising an eyebrow. It was the most even-tempered display of golf I have ever seen and I watch for these things.
And the other reason I felt he deserved one last acknowledgement was because of his humanity, for his acceptance of himself. This is a guy who loves what he does and is willing to accept what it gives him. It’s not that he’s a slacker, that he’s any less determined than anyone else, it’s that he’s prepared to be on the long plateaus of mastery between the upticks and be happy that he gets to do it at all.
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?
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 [loss] 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.
And he also made it clear that his loss was not some psychological catastrophe from which it will be very difficult to recover.
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?
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).
He was so deeply immersed in his process to play as well as he could, coming down the stretch in regulation, he didn’t even have the details of how he was doing or where he stood. Instead, he was playing golf as best he could and that was demanding all of his attention.
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 [getting back up for] the playoff? You hit the two great shots on the first [playoff] hole, but was it difficult to get into that mode, given that you were up by five at one point?
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… 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.
Was there any disappointment at that point?
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 [playoff] 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.
And looking down the road, he was very well grounded in what had happened; he lost a playoff, didn’t die and still has his bright future ahead of him.
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?
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.
What a good guy. What a decent, centered, well-adjusted human being.
I thought you should know that about him too, that he isn’t just the “other guy” who lost the playoff, never to be heard from again.