Tour players can be harsh when grading themselves

Jason Dufner poses for photographers with the Wanamaker Trophy after his two-stroke victory at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.

Jason Dufner poses for photographers with the Wanamaker Trophy after his two-stroke victory at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.

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Students at Auburn University should be glad that Jason Dufner is one of their biggest boosters and not one of their professors.

Tough marker, Mr. Dufner.

“B-plus for the season,” he said, when asked what he’d give himself for the 2013 PGA Tour campaign.

Wow. Three million in prize money, five top 10s, a spot on the Presidents Cup team, made the cut in all four majors, joint fourth in the U.S. Open, and, oh, that PGA Championship. And for all that, he gives himself a B-plus?

“OK, I’ll take an A-plus for the major (at Oak Hill Country Club),” Dufner said. “But just a B-plus for the rest of the season.”

Hey, his grade, his ground rules, because players at the Tour Championship were asked, “What would you give yourself for a grade for the 2013 PGA Tour season?” So, if Dufner wants to give himself two marks, who’s to debate? He makes a fair point, too, which sort of hits at the glory of Dufner. He doesn’t embellish; he doesn’t get caught up in the pomp. For much of the season, he struggled with the putter (he finished 142nd in strokes gained-putting) and that translated into fewer chances to win.

True, his overall picture was enhanced by winning the PGA Championship, but Dufner is as honest as you’ll find on Tour – “I struggled for a good bit of the year,” he said – and so he knows that the impressive sprint to the finish line doesn’t mask the choppy run that most of the race was.

Along those lines, so, too, does Luke Donald hit himself with the hammer. It wasn’t long ago he was World No. 1, and while he’s not so lofty these days, he did pile up five top 10s and $1.9 million, yet it was no good. “A C,” Donald said.

Why so low?

“It’s (not) winning, (not being) consistent. Just a comfort level with how you feel with your game.”

Donald agrees that players who’ve performed beautifully on the world stage for a few years are likely to be tougher graders than those who haven’t experienced the massive highlights the game can bring.

“It’s easy to judge your year against past years, because you know that you’re capable,” Donald said. “You can’t ever as a player lower your expectations; you expect to play really great. Obviously, I was at the pinnacle of the game about a year ago (No. 1 in the world), and you expect to get to that level again.”

Reflecting Donald’s thought process, Brendon de Jonge, though he earned less money ($1.7 million) than the Englishman, gives himself two grades higher. “An A,” said the man from Zimbabwe. No, he still hasn’t broken through for a PGA Tour win, “but I started the year with four goals and I accomplished three of them. I made the Presidents Cup, I got here (Tour Championship), I didn’t win and the fourth goal is personal.”

Like de Jonge, Roberto Castro didn’t win. And like de Jonge, he chooses to give himself an A.

“I struggled the first half (of the season), but I committed to gutting it out and then I got it going,” said the Georgia Tech product, who made $2.1 million, was 21st in the final FedEx Cup standings and had four top 10s, all in his last 10 tournaments of the season. “Just goes to show, it’s a long season.”

Some grades seem obvious, such as Adam Scott giving himself an A. The first Aussie to win the Masters? Seriously productive stuff there, but Scott gave it a bit of a pause before he answered the question.

“It’s hard not to give myself an A, if I’m being biased. I need to give myself an A, because if I don’t, I don’t think I appreciate (the major victory). It’s easy to sit here and be as disappointed as I have been all year and think critically, but I should give myself an A.

“I won another event (Barclays), and I played really good in two other majors. I think I achieved what I set out to, but again, without doing much more differently I could have done so much more. That’s the positive thing for me.”

Other grades are a bit surprising. Brandt Snedeker not giving himself an A, despite two wins, for instance?

“That’s great, but I didn’t play very well in the playoffs and I only had one chance to win a major, so that’s the way I look at it,” said Snedeker, who gives himself a “B, maybe a B-plus, somewhere in there.”

Another two-time winner, Matt Kuchar (Accenture Match Play Championship, Memorial) isn’t so tough on himself, mostly because he had the consistency players strive. “An A,” Kuchar said. “Two wins, no missed cuts. Thought it was great year for me.”

Kevin Streelman thinks similarly about his season, though he stops short of an A. “An A-minus. I won (Tampa Bay Championship), and I put myself right there in some other nice tournaments. My best finish in a major (T-12 at the PGA), I’m starting to feel comfortable in the big ones, and now next year I know I’m in all the majors and the WGCs.”

Hunter Mahan can point to $3 million in prize money and finishing 20th in the FEC standings, but “you win and it seems to make it a lot better,” he said, explaining why Kuchar and Streelman can toss A's next to their name, but he can’t. He didn’t win. “But I put myself in good position in back-to-back majors that are two completely different styles of golf (U.S. Open, Open Championship), and I’m pretty proud of the fact,” said Mahan, who gives himself a B-plus.

Nick Watney said he was a D with the progress report as late as mid-August, “but I feel like in the playoffs, things are really trending in the right direction.”

He was 34 under for his 16 playoff rounds, had a second, a T-9 and a T-14, and finished 15th in the FEC standings. Thus, does he improve his overall grade to a B. “That’s about right,” he said.

That’s a little better than what Keegan Bradley would give himself, despite $3.6 million, two seconds, a third, and seven to 10s in all.

“If I had won, this would probably be my best season, but the fact that I haven’t won . . . I’m not looking to come out here and not win.”

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