Coming down the home stretch of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Sunday’s leaderboard was quite frothy with the comings and goings of the various players at the top.
Overnight leader, Jason Dufner was underwater by two shots late, but he got some help from late bogeys by Marc Leishman, Jonas Blixt and a double by J.J. Henry. And when Dufner sank a slow-rolling 25-footer for birdie on 18, he floated to the top for the final time and his second victory in 3 weeks. Throw in his marriage in his off-week after his New Orleans victory, and it’s been a whirlwind month.
And some pretty good learning came out of his experience:
Could you talk about what was going through your mind as you had a struggle to start with. You had a couple of bogeys then you see a hole-in-one [from playing companion, J.J. Henry], obviously that had to take you back a little bit.
Yeah, a little bit. I think I made eight bogeys for the week, five of them on the first three holes. Obviously, I don’t like those holes.
I was used to the start. So I just told myself I needed to get a ball in the fairway on 4 because that’s an accessible hole location. On 5, same, saw a hole-in-one so ton of birdies on that hole today. I wasn’t too concerned about it. My start, obviously I can’t control what my competitors are doing, obviously J.J. holing out, neat to be part of, final group, final round. Either way he was going to make birdie at worst and got it to go in. I don’t concern myself with what they’re doing or how that’s going.
I was confident that we were going to be battling it out to the end.
I had a chance to watch you some today and throughout the week. You seemed so confident. I just wondered, the feeling that you had ‑‑ you may have touched on this. What you were feeling coming down the stretch this week as opposed to New Orleans or the PGA, having won. Did that make ‑‑ did you feel a big difference because of that?
I think a little bit. I think every tournament is separate and different from the others. You know, the biggest thing I learned about New Orleans or from New Orleans is staying patient out here.
There were times in New Orleans where I felt like I was out of it, then there was no way I was going to lose, then I was out of it, and you get these flip‑flopping emotions. Today I didn’t have that as much. I always felt like I was in there, I just needed a little something to happen, to go my way, and fortunately a couple of things went bad for guys finishing on those last couple of holes, and I was able to play those last three in 2‑under. That’s the difference as to why I was able to get the victory and stay patient.
Now that you’ve been on both sides of the finish line ‑‑ you were on the other side getting close and not doing it, and now that you’ve won twice in 22 days, what is the difference in that fine line of winning and not winning, now that you’ve experienced it?
Yeah, that’s really hard to put your finger on. I’m sure there has been times when I felt like I’ve hit good shots and the shots didn’t end up where I wanted to, or I’ve hit good putts and the putts missed, or you get a bad break. On the flip side you make a 50‑footer. It’s just such a fine line out here between wining and finishing second or 10th.
It’s hard to put your finger on. It could be a number of different things, different scenarios, and the one thing I realized is I’m not the only guy out there fighting those things. Everybody else is dealing with those things, so it evens out.
People don’t realize how fine the line is between winning. J.J. played great all day. If he gets a wind gust on 17 and it knocks his ball down and catches that slope, he might be the champion. That’s the difference between winning and not winning. Sometimes that can be a hard pill to swallow, but when I’ve been on the other side of it, I always took encouragement from it, that I was playing great golf, and my time was going to come.
And there were some pretty nice consequences to his win too:
Jason, obviously, like you said, it’s been a wild month. Now you have the two wins, FedExCup, top‑10 in the World Golf rankings. Does a win like this make you a favorite for the U.S. Open or certainly get Davis Love’s attention?
I hope it gets Davis Love’s attention. I think I will be No. 1 in the points, so I hope that gets his attention. Obviously being a Ryder Cup year, that would be special to have on your resume and play in, even if it’s only for one time. That was one of my main goals. The FedExCup, being No. 1 is a great position to be in, but we’re maybe a little more than halfway through, so we have a long haul on that.
All these things that come with winning are great but I don’t think much about ’em, other than The Ryder Cup and trying to win tournaments.
And so because of his patience, because of his insight that he wasn’t the only one in the field fighting his emotions and because he has learned that winning is a transferable skill, he can drive cross town with his new bride to next week’s tournament at Colonial in Fort Worth and begin the process of trying to do it again.