banner
Adam Gold

A major learning experience

Posted August 11, 2013
Updated August 13, 2013

At the highest levels, success in athletics ultimately comes down to how you handle pressure. How you perform in the biggest moments, those that determine the outcome of games, of seasons, of championships. Sunday afternoon, on a bright, mid-summer afternoon at historic Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, Jason Dufner stared at a leader board with several worthy contenders and stared down his own history at the PGA Championship and grabbed his first major trophy.

He seemingly did it with a resting heart rate somewhere in the low 20s.

"I come across as a pretty cool customer, I guess. But, there are definitely some nerves out there, especially when you're trying to win a major championship." 

Those nerves clearly were apparent two years ago, at the Atlanta Athletic Club, in the final round of the PGA Championship. Dufner stood on the 15th tee with a 5-stroke lead, but made three consecutive bogeys to fall into a tie and eventually lost a playoff to Keegan Bradley. Same thing happened to Adam Scott at the Open Championship last year, when he bogeyed the final four holes to lose by one shot to Ernie Els. And, it happened to Jim Furyk, Dufner's playing partner on Sunday, in the final round of the US Open a year ago.

It happened to Furyk again yesterday.

Golf is unlike every other sport in how its championships are decided. Forget the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup, it isn't even in the same stratosphere as the four majors in terms of importance. Oh, that's not to say that Brandt Snedeker or Bill Haas didn't have to deal with their own pressures in winning the last two Cup titles, it just means that there isn't a soul connected to the sport of golf who doesn't understand that legacies are built four weekends a year.

This year's champions will go down as Adam Scott (Masters), Justin Rose (U.S. Open), Phil Mickelson (Open Championship) and Dufner. Four players who conquered the field, the golf course and their own inner demons to claim career-altering titles. Those four men made history. Scott, Rose and Dufner each won their first major championship, Mickelson captured his fifth and cemented his legacy as one of the top ten players in history.

What happens over the next month is just about money.

In golf, players feel pressure for different reasons. For some, it's the pressure of making the cut and a paycheck to keep playing another week. For others, it's about winning a regular tour event which guarantees them playing privileges for two seasons. Every level up, the pressure grows.

Dufner was just a guy, part of the rank and file on tour until nearly catching lightning in the proverbial bottle two years ago in Atlanta. But the following year, he proved to be a player coming into his own. He won twice, placed second two other times and won more than $5 million worldwide. He was a member of the American Ryder Cup team, winning three of a possible four points in the hottest cauldron in golf. That the U.S. fell short against Europe again was hardly Dufner's fault.

This year, Dufner faced a different kind of pressure. Anyone can have a great year, and 2012 was just that for the former Auburn Tiger. But, could he do it again? Prior to this week, the answer was, well, we're not sure.

Other than a great final round at the U.S. Open that thrust him into pseudo contention and last week's fourth place finish 2103 had been largely a step back for Dufner.

Until this weekend.

With Friday's spectacular round of 63, tying the low score for a single round in a major championship, Dufner announced himself a contender. And, even though he didn't play nearly as well on Saturday, he still entered the final round with a great chance to claim his first major championship and when the bell rang at 2:55 pm ET Dufner came out fighting. Three birdies on the front nine put him in the lead and when his approach on 16 came to rest just inches from the hole the Wanamaker Trophy was just about ready for the engraver.

Dufner was bigger than the pressure of winning his first major while Furyk struggled with the weight of trying to win his second -- ten years after claiming the U.S. Open. Such is the power of the task. It creates tension and anxiety and fears that don't exist during the other 25-30 tournaments of the year and Dufner was up to the challenge. "You try and act like it's not a big deal, but it's a big deal," Dufner said afterward. "I know what to expect…and how I'm going to react to the pressure."

His reaction was a lot better than everyone else's. It was also better than it was two years and a thousand miles ago.

7 Comments

Please to add a comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Hammerhead Aug 13, 2013

    View quoted thread



    I played quite a bit as a teenager and then gave it up. I figured I'd take it up again maybe when I got older, still waiting at 55. I have no interest in playing any time soon either. Too many other fun things to keep me occupied. Also, the country club culture doesn't really fit me, I'm more of a hippie roughneck, adventure sport type. I prefer natural settings over manmade. I also worked as a greenskeeper for a few years when I was young.

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 12, 2013

    View quoted thread

    Do you play this game hammerhead? Just curious. I haven't seen on hardly any golf topics of late.

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 12, 2013

    Furyk should have had at least one official to put him on a clock yesterday. His looking at his putts for at least 3 times after standing over the ball and crouching down is wrong for the game. Who would have wanted to be playing along side him. Dufner held his pause and had to look away for minutes at a time for him. I would hope that the PGA will take notice of this. All announcers commented about Jim Furyk yesterday. Pull the trigger.

  • Hammerhead Aug 12, 2013

    View quoted thread



    Well played, sir.

  • sburks1906 Aug 12, 2013

    Congrats to Dufner! He more than deserved it. By the way, it's about time that someone from Cleveland won a title...

  • VT1994Hokie Aug 12, 2013

    I was happy to see him win his first Major. He drove the ball exceptionally well, and his irons were in the fairway. When hitting his wedge he was money with a short putt remaining. He looked like most all others down the stretch, and his nerves were showing. Glad he had enough to win it.

  • jamesdwhite Aug 12, 2013

    Watched a little but to watch Dufner with that fat lip of dip,spitting and drooling turned me off to watching the tournament the rest of the afternoon. Slob.

  • ACC: Syracuse at NC State

    Tomorrow at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Florida at Kentucky

    Tomorrow at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Pac 12: Stanford at Arizona

    Tomorrow at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NHL: Hurricanes vs. Minnesota

    Tonight at 8:00 on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 56
TEMPL 70
Final
NCCU 69
NCAT 58
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
MIN
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
TOR
 
Final
DET 4
ATL 6
 
Final
TAM 2
BAL 3
 
Final
PIT 1
NYY 2
 
Final
HOU 6
PHI 3
 
Final
MIA 1
STL 4
 
Final
SFG 8
CHC 6
 
Final
CIN 3
CLE 9
 
Final
CWS 1
LOS 6
 
Final
ANA 3
MIL 2
 
Final
CHC 2
OAK 2
 
Final
SEA 9
SDP 4
 
Final
KAN 5
TEX 4
 
Final
ARI 4
COL 3
 
Final
WAS 5
NYM 4
 
Final
MIN 9
BOS 8
 
Final
BAL 5
TOR 0
 
1:05pm Today
STL
HOU
 
1:05pm Today
BOS
MIA
 
1:05pm Today
TAM
MIN
 
1:05pm Today
PHI
NYY
 
1:05pm Today
ATL
WAS
 
1:07pm Today
TOR
BAL
 
1:10pm Today
NYM
DET
 
3:05pm Today
SDP
CWS
 
3:05pm Today
CHC
CIN
 
3:05pm Today
CLE
KAN
 
3:05pm Today
MIL
LOS
 
3:05pm Today
TEX
SFG
 
3:05pm Today
LOS
SEA
 
3:10pm Today
ANA
COL
 
3:10pm Today
ARI
OAK
 
7:05pm Tonight
NYY
PIT
 
Final
CHI 108
OKC 105
4th
POR 92
DAL 75
 
7:00pm Tonight
IND
CHI
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
MIA
 
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
SAC
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
TOR
 
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
UTA
 
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
CLE
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
BOS
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
DET
 
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
LAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
BRK
PHO
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
DEN
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
DAL
 
Final
MDES 89
MRGST 76
 
Final
SIENA 71
NIAG 54
Final
LEH 62
AMER 68
 
Final
SCAR 74
ARK 78
Final
LAF 89
BU 64
 
Final
PETE 63
FAIR 33
Final
BUCK 90
HC 83
 
Final
UNF 71
LIP 57
 
Final
TENNM 65
MORE 76
Final
COL 72
NAVY 62
 
Final
ECU 56
TEMPL 70
Final
FATL 62
UAB 59
Final
FLGC 62
USCU 63
 
Final
CHAR 84
WKENT 88
Final
MINN 63
WISC 76
Final
MIZST 48
SILL 55
Final
COPST 92
DELST 104
 
Final
FIU 59
MTST 54
Final
HAMP 69
NORST 80
 
Final
NCCU 69
NCAT 58
 
Final
COOK 72
SCST 62
 
Final
APP 67
TXST 64
 
Final
GSOUT 76
TXARL 64
 
Final
LAMON 50
UGST 58
 
Final
ODU 67
MARS 50
Final
TXSA 74
RICE 76
 
Final
FAM 64
SAV 57
 
Final
LATU 72
SMISS 61
Final
JST 72
ALAAM 54
 
Final
GRAM 46
ALAST 70
 
Final
TXSOU 94
ALCOR 73
 
Final
NICST 77
CARK 70
 
Final
TAMCC 85
HOUB 72
 
Final
NARZ 58
PORST 51
 
Final
LAM 61
SHSU 67
 
Final
ARKST 76
SALA 81
 
Final
PVU 73
SOUTH 77
 
Final
LALAF 75
ARKLR 69
 
Final
NO 85
SELA 79
 
Final
INCWORD 64
ABCHRIST 52
 
9:00pm Thursday
MVSU 0
ARKPB 0
 
Final
ARZ 99
CAL 60
 
Final
WASH 47
COL 64
 
Final
WEBER 74
IDAHO 63
 
Final
UCONN 53
MEM 54
 
Final
UTEP 83
UNT 60
 
Final
STEPH 92
NWST 66
 
Final
SUTAH 69
SACST 65
 
Final
DAVID 82
VCU 55
 
Final
IDST 81
EWASH 85
 
Final
QUIN 74
MAR 80
 
Final
BEL 97
EILL 64
Final
DRAK 50
BRAD 52
 
Final
LBSU 69
CSNO 58
 
Final
UCI 68
CSFU 62
 
Final
UCD 61
UCR 59
 
2nd
ARST 50
STAN 47
 
2nd
WASU 52
UTAH 57
 
12:00pm Today
MVSU
ARKPB
 
12:00pm Today
CSOU
LONG
 
1:05pm Today
WICHS
SILL
 
2:00pm Today
RAD
WINT
 
3:35pm Today
ILLST
EVAN
 
6:00pm Tonight
HIGH
GWEBB
 
6:00pm Tonight
UNCG
SAMF
 
6:00pm Tonight
ELON
TOWS
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
AKR
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
BGU
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
BRO
 
7:00pm Tonight
WMICH
CMICH
 
7:00pm Tonight
PENN
CLMB
 
7:00pm Tonight
PRIN
CORN
 
7:00pm Tonight
OU
ILLCH
 
7:00pm Tonight
OHIO
UMO
 
7:00pm Tonight
BST
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
EMICH
TOL
 
7:05pm Tonight
NIOWA
BRAD
 
7:30pm Tonight
MURST
MORE
 
8:00pm Tonight
CCAR
UNCA
 
8:00pm Tonight
HARV
YALE
 
8:30pm Tonight
DREX
COC
 
8:30pm Tonight
CITA
FUR
 
9:00pm Tonight
USF
PAC
 
9:00pm Tonight
BAY
TTU
 
9:30pm Tonight
EKENT
BEL
 
9:30pm Tonight
CLST
DET
 
9:35pm Tonight
INDST
LOYC
 
11:30pm Tonight
SCU
LMU
 
Final
BOS 3
CAL 4
Final
WAS 1
MIN 2
Final
PHI 3
STL 1
Final
FLA 3
DAL 4
Final
TAM 4
TOR 2
Final
NAS 3
NYI 4
Final
ARI 3
VAN 2
3rd
LOS 2
MON 3
 
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
CLB
 
7:00pm Tonight
CAR
MIN
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
BUF
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
CAL
 
8:30pm Tonight
CHI
EDM
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
PIT