Monday, August 12
Late-Bloomer Dufner Puts on Ball-Striking Clinic at Oak Hill
JASON DUFNER IS A LATE BLOOMER. But the thing about late bloomers is they bloom nonetheless. Dufner didn't take up golf until the age of 15. And the Auburn grad didn't win a major until yesterday, the 95th PGA Championship, at the age of 36. Two years after a heartbreaking playoff loss to Keegan Bradley, good ol' Duf got it done on a rough-infested Oak Hill Country Club that rewarded his splendid ball striking.
Fifty-four-hole leader Jim Furyk put up a good fight but couldn't keep up.
I sort of understand the Ben Hogan references I've heard and read, especially since Hogan is Dufner's hero. But Jason Dufner is not Ben Hogan.
I even consider it to be a stretch to call him Hogan-like. Their swings don't look much alike to me. Yes, Dufner was striping it down the middle of Oak Hill's pinched fairways and hitting it close to the hole on the final day in the year's final major. But many of those laser approach shots were in the 100-130 yard (wedge) range, with room for massive backspin on receptive greens. A half century ago, Hogan would have been hitting medium and long irons into many of Oak Hill's greens. The Hawk set the standard for precision.
Hogan comparisons aside, Dufner was outstanding and held up under pressure like a champion to win the Wanamaker Trophy. He proved that old golf adage, fairways and greens. It works extremely well in majors on tough tracks like Oak Hill. Look at the numbers. For the week, Dufner hit more than 60 percent of the fairways. Greens in regulation: 75 percent.
That explains a lot, including a clutch final-round 68. Dufner could even afford a bogey-bogey finish. That's how you come away with your first major title.
"For me to be competitive on this type of golf course," Dufner said, "I felt like I had to have a great week ball-striking and I was able to do it.
"I hit a lot of fairways. If I did miss the fairways, I wasn't in the thick, thick stuff, so I could manage to get it up by the greens. When I did hit the fairways, I hit a ton of greens, and that was the difference for me."
Those fairways-and-greens guys have fared well in the majors this year. Adam Scott. Justin Rose. And now Jason Dufner.
With the exception of Phil Mickelson at Muirfield, all 2013 major winners are first-timers. Who will be next?