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 with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to 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.

  • MLB: Anaheim at Boston

    Tonight at 7:00 on FOX50

  • NASL: RailHawks v. Indy Eleven

    Tonight at 7:30 on WRAL-2

  • Yachting: America’s Cup

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • US Track & Field Championships

    Tomorrow at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • MLB: Pittsburgh at St. Louis

    Tonight at 6:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • MLB: Pittsburgh at St. Louis

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • College World Series: Teams TBD

    Monday at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • College World Series: Teams TBD

    Tuesday at 7:45 pm on 99.9 The Fan

MLB Scoreboard
Interleague
Detroit 7:10 PT8:10 MT9:10 CT10:10 ET22:10 ET2:10 GMT10:10 7:10 MST9:10 EST9:40 VEN6:10 UAE (+1)9:10 CT
Preview
San Diego 
American League
Texas8Final
NY Yankees1
Oakland8Top
7th
Chi White Sox2
Toronto2Final
Kansas City3
Minnesota2Top
3rd
Cleveland0
Baltimore3Bot
3rd
Tampa Bay0
LA Angels04:15 PT5:15 MT6:15 CT7:15 ET19:15 ET23:15 GMT7:15 4:15 MST6:15 EST6:45 VEN3:15 UAE (+1)6:15 CT
Preview
Boston0
Houston 7:10 PT8:10 MT9:10 CT10:10 ET22:10 ET2:10 GMT10:10 7:10 MST9:10 EST9:40 VEN6:10 UAE (+1)9:10 CT
Preview
Seattle 
National League
Cincinnati0Bot
2nd
Washington3
Milwaukee1Top
3rd
Atlanta1
Chi Cubs1Top
3rd
Miami3
Pittsburgh04:15 PT5:15 MT6:15 CT7:15 ET19:15 ET23:15 GMT7:15 4:15 MST6:15 EST6:45 VEN3:15 UAE (+1)6:15 CT
Preview
St. Louis0
NY Mets04:15 PT5:15 MT6:15 CT7:15 ET19:15 ET23:15 GMT7:15 4:15 MST6:15 EST6:45 VEN3:15 UAE (+1)6:15 CT
Preview
San Francisco0
Colorado 7:10 PT8:10 MT9:10 CT10:10 ET22:10 ET2:10 GMT10:10 7:10 MST9:10 EST9:40 VEN6:10 UAE (+1)9:10 CT
Preview
LA Dodgers 
Philadelphia 7:10 PT8:10 MT9:10 CT10:10 ET22:10 ET2:10 GMT10:10 7:10 MST9:10 EST9:40 VEN6:10 UAE (+1)9:10 CT
Preview
Arizona 
Minor League Baseball
International League
Lehigh Valley 10:35 PT11:35 MT12:35 CT1:35 ET11:35 MT1:35 ET6:35 GMT2:35 北京时间
Rochester 
Indianapolis 2:00 PT3:00 MT4:00 CT5:00 ET3:00 MT5:00 ET10:00 GMT6:00 北京时间
Louisville 
Norfolk 3:05 PT4:05 MT5:05 CT6:05 ET4:05 MT6:05 ET11:05 GMT7:05 北京时间
Gwinnett 
Pawtucket 3:35 PT4:35 MT5:35 CT6:35 ET4:35 MT6:35 ET11:35 GMT7:35 北京时间
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre 
Charlotte 3:35 PT4:35 MT5:35 CT6:35 ET4:35 MT6:35 ET11:35 GMT7:35 北京时间
Durham 
Buffalo 4:05 PT5:05 MT6:05 CT7:05 ET5:05 MT7:05 ET12:05 GMT8:05 北京时间
Syracuse 
Toledo 4:15 PT5:15 MT6:15 CT7:15 ET5:15 MT7:15 ET12:15 GMT8:15 北京时间
Columbus 
Indianapolis 4:30 PT5:30 MT6:30 CT7:30 ET5:30 MT7:30 ET12:30 GMT8:30 北京时间
Louisville 
Travelers Champ (PGA)
PosNameScoreThru
1J. Spieth-1112
2D. Berger-913
3tC. Pan-818
3tD. Lingmerth-818
3tP. Casey-817
3tB. Weekley-813
7tK. Bradley-718
7tD. Hearn-718
7tC. Hoffman-717
7tD. Lee-715
View Full Leaderboard
 
NW Ark Champ (LPGA)
PosNameScoreThru
1S. Ryu-1618
2tA. Ashok-818
2tM. Lee-818
2tI. Park-818
2tA. McDonald-810
2tS. Lewis-88
7tK. Shon-618
7tM. Alex-618
7tC. Ciganda-618
7tG. Lopez-618
View Full Leaderboard
 
BMW International (EURO)
PosNameScoreThru
1tR. Bland-1318
1tS. Garcia-1318
3J. Lagergren-1218
4tA. Romero-1018
4tT. Detry-1018
6tS. Henry-918
6tD. Lipsky-918
6tR. Paratore-918
6tH. Otto-918
10tB. Rumford-818
View Full Leaderboard
 
ATP Scoreboard
Saturday, Jun. 24
AEGON Championships (ATP)
Semifinals
(4) M. Cilic6 5 6   
G. Muller3 7 4   
(6) G. Dimitrov5 6 2   
F. Lopez7 3 6   
 
Gerry Weber Open (ATP)
Semifinals
(1) R. Federer6 77    
K. Khachanov4 65    
(4) A. Zverev4 6 6   
R. Gasquet6 4 3   
 
WTA Scoreboard
Saturday, Jun. 24
AEGON Classic Birmingham (WTA)
Semifinals
(7) P. Kvitova6 1    
L. Safarova1 0    
(6) G. Muguruza6 4 3   
A. Barty3 6 6   
 
Mallorca Open (WTA)
Semifinals
J. Goerges6 6    
C. Bellis1 1    
(2) A. Sevastova6 6    
(3) C. Garcia4 2