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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.

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  • Hammerhead Aug 13, 2013

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    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.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR
 
Final
TEX 3
CLE 12
Final
COL 6
CIN 4
Final
MIA 2
PIT 5
Final
CWS 5
TOR 3
Final
KAN 2
NYY 4
Final
BOS 4
MIN 6
Final
PHI 0
NYM 7
Final
SEA 3
TAM 0
Final
SFG 3
MIL 1
Final
DET 3
OAK 2
Final
HOU 4
BAL 5
 
1st
WAS 0
CHC 0
 
1st
ARI 0
STL 0
 
10:05pm Tonight
SDP
ANA
10:10pm Tonight
ATL
LOS
1:05pm Thursday
CWS
BAL
 
4:35pm Thursday
CWS
BAL
 
8:05pm Thursday
BOS
TEX
 
10:05pm Thursday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Thursday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Thursday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Thursday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Thursday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Friday
KAN
CHC
 
7:05pm Friday
COL
PHI
 
7:05pm Friday
TAM
BAL
 
7:10pm Friday
MIA
NYM
 
7:10pm Friday
WAS
CIN
 
8:05pm Friday
BOS
TEX
 
8:10pm Friday
ARI
MIL
 
8:10pm Friday
CWS
HOU
 
8:10pm Friday
TOR
MIN
 
8:15pm Friday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Friday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Friday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Friday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Friday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Friday
ATL
SFG
 
2:10pm Saturday
TOR
MIN
 
3:05pm Saturday
COL
PHI
 
4:05pm Saturday
TAM
BAL
 
4:10pm Saturday
ARI
MIL
 
4:10pm Saturday
CWS
HOU
 
4:10pm Saturday
MIA
NYM
 
4:10pm Saturday
WAS
CIN
 
7:15pm Saturday
BOS
TEX
 
7:15pm Saturday
KAN
CHC
 
7:15pm Saturday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Saturday
ATL
SFG
 
10:05pm Saturday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Saturday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Saturday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Saturday
PIT
SDP
 
1:10pm Sunday
MIA
NYM
 
1:10pm Sunday
WAS
CIN
 
1:35pm Sunday
COL
PHI
 
1:35pm Sunday
TAM
BAL
 
2:10pm Sunday
ARI
MIL
 
2:10pm Sunday
CWS
HOU
 
2:10pm Sunday
TOR
MIN
 
2:15pm Sunday
LOS
STL
 
2:20pm Sunday
KAN
CHC
 
3:05pm Sunday
BOS
TEX
 
4:05pm Sunday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Sunday
NYY
OAK
 
4:10pm Sunday
CLE
SEA
 
8:05pm Sunday
DET
ANA
 
9:10pm Sunday
PIT
SDP
 
9:00pm Tonight
HOU
GSW
9:00pm Friday
GSW
HOU
 
9:00pm Sunday
HOU
GSW
 
1st
ANA 0
CHI 0
 
8:00pm Friday
TAM
NYR
 
8:00pm Saturday
CHI
ANA
 
12:00pm Friday
AUBURN
CHARLESTON
 
1:00pm Friday
CALIFORNIA
CCAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
COLUMBIA
ECAROLINA
 
1:00pm Friday
ORALROBRTS
ARKANSAS
 
1:00pm Friday
OREGON
IOWA
 
1:00pm Friday
SFLORIDA
FAU
 
1:00pm Friday
WRIGHTST
NOTREDAME
 
2:00pm Friday
MICHIGAN
BRADLEY
 
2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
2:30pm Friday
TEXAS
OREGONST
 
3:00pm Friday
INDIANA
RADFORD
 
3:30pm Friday
ULLAFAYETE
RICE
 
4:00pm Friday
LEHIGH
LSU
 
6:00pm Friday
CANISIUS
SWMISSOURI
 
6:00pm Friday
CLEMSON
ARIZONAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MERCER
FLORIDAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MOREHEADST
LOUISVILLE
 
6:00pm Friday
VIRGINIA
USC
 
7:00pm Friday
FIU
MIAFLA
 
7:00pm Friday
FLAAM
FLORIDA
 
7:00pm Friday
MARYLAND
MISS
 
7:00pm Friday
SACREDHART
TCU
 
7:00pm Friday
STJOHNS
OKLAHOMAST
 
7:00pm Friday
TSOUTHERN
TEXASAM
 
7:00pm Friday
VCU
DALLASBAPT
 
8:00pm Friday
HSTNBAPT
HOUSTON
 
8:00pm Friday
LIPSCOMB
VANDERBILT
 
8:00pm Friday
OHIO
ILLINOIS
 
8:00pm Friday
TULANE
NWILMINGTN
 
10:00pm Friday
PEPPERDINE
FULLERTON
 
10:00pm Friday
SANDIEGOST
CSANTABAR
 
11:00pm Friday
CSBAKER
UCLA
 
Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR