Dufner moves on from PGA disappointment

Jason Dufner

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LEMONT, Ill. – It was a mere 4 feet, and when the birdie try slid by on the right side, Jason Dufner grimaced, bit his tongue and cooled his emotions on a raw Friday afternoon at the BMW Championship.

The four weeks since the PGA Championship slipped through his fingers? Dufner has handled that disappointment with similar perspective.

“Most golfers get over the good and bad quickly. You have to,” Dufner said. “If you let it linger, you’ll only have a bad experience.”

His second round at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club’s Dubsdread Course should have been lower, but Dufner resigned himself to what it was – a 3-under 68 to push him into a share of 15th. The bitterness of that birdie roll that went wide at his 18th hole, the par-5 ninth, stung, but it’s not like Dufner hasn’t learned to handle such adversity. Just last month at the Atlanta Athletic Club, Dufner was handed a major dose of humility as he stood on the 15th tee in the final round with a five-stroke lead, only to see it melt away against Keegan Bradley’s finishing blitz.

There was a two-hour ride with his fiance, Amanda Boyd, back to their home in Auburn, Ala., and at that time Dufner determined to put the playoff loss behind him. He was going forward, to the Wyndham Championship, then onward to the FedEx Cup playoffs, and while the play has been spotty, he has no regrets.

“It’s been pretty good,” Dufner said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support, a lot of notoriety, and it’s kind of gone by quickly. There’s been a lot of good following, (and I’ve) met some different people.”

Fact is, there’s a bigger picture in place, and you need to get beyond the PGA Championship to see it clearly. Dufner came into the BWM Championship with a career-best $2,589,460 in earnings, a world ranking of 42nd and a FedEx Cup standing of 29th. Pretty impressive notations toward one of the PGA Tour’s most unheralded stories. Though he has been knocking on the door and making steady strides in his career, Dufner is winless in a PGA Tour career that covers 151 tournaments, yet at 34, if it appears as if Dufner is still catching on to this game, it’s for good reason. Unlike so many of his peers, Dufner was no junior phenom; in fact, he didn’t start playing golf until he was 15, and he was a walk-on at Auburn.

Five full seasons of Nationwide Tour play has hardened Dufner, so much so that he appears unfazed by most of the glamour and excitement that comes with these mega PGA Tour productions. True, the glory of a PGA Championship might have changed the way in which he’s perceived, but it’s not like the former Auburn star is beating himself up over the way things unfolded a month ago in pulsating heat.

Things happened so quickly late in the round, Dufner didn’t realize that Bradley’s triple bogey at the 15th left him with a five-stroke cushion.

“I realized it afterward,” Dufner said, “but I didn’t know it at the time.”

The record book is finished on the 2011 PGA Championship – Dufner bogeyed the 15th to settle into a four-stroke lead, but then he played the last three holes in 2 over while Bradley played them in 2 under. The playoff also went Bradley’s way, and Dufner was left to haul his heartache home.

There’s been little time to rest and mourn his opportunity lost, because Dufner went the very next week to Greensboro, then to The Barclays in New Jersey and the Deutsche Bank Championship outside of Boston. He’s gone MC, MC, T-31, so the play hasn’t exactly shined, yet Dufner is still in position to salvage a strong end to the season.

When he signed his second-round card at the BMW, Dufner was projected to be 29th in the FEC standings, and if he were to remain inside the top 30 he’d earn his second berth in the Tour Championship. Yes, that would send him to East Lake GC, and yes, that’s not far from the Atlanta Athletic Club, but Dufner harbors no fears.

“I’ve played great in Atlanta in the past,” he said, flashing a smile. It was further proof that Dufner has moved on.

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