Dufner's renewed passion fuels victory at Jack's Place
June 04, 2017
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Jason Dufner extended highlights | Round 4 | the MemorialIn the final round of the 2017 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, Jason Dufner pulls off a come-from-behind win with a clutch par putt from 33 feet on the 72nd hole.
DUBLIN, Ohio – Notes and observations from Sunday’s final round of the Memorial Tournament Presented by Nationwide, where a resilient Jason Dufner waited out two rain delays and shot a final-round 68 to beat Rickie Fowler (70) and Anirban Lahiri (65) by three shots. Justin Thomas (72) and Matt Kuchar (73) tied for fourth, four back.
For more coverage from Muirfield Village, click here for the Daily Wrap-up.
DUF, AS IN TOUGH
Jason Dufner had every reason to pack it in after shooting a third-round 77.
He did not.
“I'm still in this tournament,” he said, his voice barely audible.
Sure enough, Dufner, 40, authored a bounce-back for the ages. Unshakable from tee to green, he overcame sometimes wobbly putting to salt away his fifth PGA TOUR victory. On what is often called a second-shot golf course, Dufner was red-hot with his iron play all week, registering an astounding +10.682 in strokes gained: approach the green—first in the field.
“I think sometimes you get in this mindset where, when you're playing that well, you're not going to play that poorly,” Dufner said of his third round. “And it kind of shocks you.”
Dufner will move from 56th to 13th in the FedExCup with Sunday’s victory.
It didn’t come easy. To cool down after his 77 Saturday, he beat range balls and then had dinner at the course with friends Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. (They share a trainer.) They hung out, talked golf, and otherwise unwound after the various stresses of tournament golf.
“I didn’t want to leave the course angry,” Dufner said.
If there is such a thing as a pro’s pro, the Cleveland-born Dufner—the only other Ohioan to win the Memorial Tournament besides Jack Nicklaus—is it. “Duf” is well-liked by peers, and smart. One of the smartest things he’s done recently was to stay with Fowler in Jupiter, Florida, last winter. The stated goal was to work on his game, but as he hung out with and played matches against 20-somethings Fowler and Thomas, he did something else: He rekindled his passion.
“I think it was good for me,” Dufner said. “There's been times where I've kind of gone—fallen in and out of love with golf, to be honest with you, as a professional.
“It was good to be around those guys, they're excited. They're passionate. They're working hard at it. They want to play good. They're hungry. They want to win tournaments.”
Using a breathing trick he says he picked up while reading about military snipers, Dufner has been better on the greens this year, but at Muirfield Village he was both good and bad. No putt looked like a sure thing, not even his 2 foot, 9 inch birdie putt on 17 Sunday. Dufner wiggled in the short putt to get to 13-under par and give himself a two-shot cushion over Fowler going to 18.
Dufner drove into the right rough, and after the second storm delay of the afternoon, chopped out, wedged onto the green, and drained his 32-foot, 7-inch par putt, pumping his fist.
The champion was a study in resilience. He twice erased bogeys with birdies on the very next hole on the front nine. Then he stopped making bogeys at all, seizing control on the back nine.
“I've always been a fighter, especially since I've turned professional,” Dufner said. “Doing this hasn't come easy for me. There's been a lot of struggles and a lot of setbacks. I didn't come straight out of college and play the PGA Tour. It took me almost ten years to get out here. Took me another two after that to win and actually get to where I felt comfortable.”
Two weeks ago, Dufner finished T13 at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He figured he would have a good tournament at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial, which is a course that fits his point-to-point control game. Alas, he missed the cut. He was “pissed,” he said, and more determined than ever to get into contention at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, a course he wasn’t even sure he liked until he played the 2013 Presidents Cup here.
Dufner did a lot more than get in contention. At 40, he’s still got plenty of fight.
Jason Dufner seals win in dramatic fashion at the Memorial
FOWLER COMES CLOSE AGAIN
Rickie Fowler continues to flirt with winning a Memorial Tournament. In 2010, the first time he played here, he faded with a final-round 73 to finish second. On Sunday, he erased a five-stroke deficit and briefly held the lead before signing for a 70 to finish runner-up to Dufner.
It was Fowler’s fifth top-10 of the season in 11 starts, including his win at The Honda Classic.
“It comes down to somewhat match play at that point,” Fowler said of the late stages of his battle with pal Dufner, which saw them separated by two shots as they played the 18th hole.
“You expect your opponent to make the putt. But from 30 feet there on the last hole, that was a pretty solid putt. To see it go in, he earned it, making a birdie on 17. And he got the job done.”
Fowler crushed a 350-yard drive on 18, leaving himself only 136 yards to the pin, but after the day’s second rain delay he missed the green left and bogeyed after Dufner’s lengthy par putt.
For the week, Fowler led the field in driving accuracy, hitting 45 of 56 fairways. He also led the field in sand saves, converting 8 of 11 attempts.
He and Dufner played plenty of matches at the Bear’s Club over the winter, when Dufner stayed at Fowler’s house while working on his game in South Florida. Sunday’s result, Dufner said, was similar to the result of many of their unofficial matches.
“I always win on Tuesdays,” Dufner said. “I always win at home.”
CALL OF THE DAY
LAHIRI TAKES FOOT OFF THE GAS
Amid a season that was below his standards, 2015 Presidents Cup team member Anirban Lahiri found himself angered to the point of detriment. Sitting 92nd in the FedExCup coming into the Memorial Tournament, Lahiri had missed three straight cuts and had just one top-10 finish on the PGA TOUR, way back at the CIMB Classic last October.
At the Memorial Tournament he decided to give himself a break, and it paid off.
“I've been pretty harsh on myself. I've beat myself up pretty bad,” the Indian star said after posting a 10-under 278 at Muirfield Village to take the early clubhouse lead.
“And coming into this week I just decided to be nice to myself and go out there and enjoy my golf, which I found wasn't happening as often as it should.”
Lahiri found himself pushing too hard for his goals, like lifting his world ranking to ensure a spot in the majors and the Presidents Cup team. While he still wants to chase these dreams, he said he needs to put less focus on them in order to free himself up to play his best golf.
“If you look at my last five starts, I don't think I finished better than 40th. And I definitely feel that I'm a better player than that,” he said. “And sometimes when you push yourself harder, it works against you. I wasn't in a good frame of mind and I think that's what's changed this week.
“There's all those things to push for. Obviously, I want to be on the Presidents Cup team. I have unfinished business. I've said that before.” (Lahiri went 0-3-0 in South Korea in 2015.)
His result this week will lift him up from his current 90th in the Official World Golf Ranking, but only a victory would have placed him inside the top 60 to give him a shot at playing the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He has declined to enter sectional qualifying.
“It’s another one of those things you can push for,” he said. “I haven't played a major or WGC this year. I played 10 consecutive majors and now I'm not in any major yet. That kind of plays on your mind. You feel like you're going backwards.
“So you just have to gather yourself and go back to what you have been doing. And I think that's where I find myself. Time to be good to myself and let the results take care of themselves.”
ODDS & ENDS
• Since the Memorial Tournament began in 1976, only one winner had shot higher than 75 in any round: Roger Maltbie, who closed with a 76 but still prevailed after beating Hale Irwin in a playoff in 1976. No one had ever come back from a 77, until Dufner. No one had shot a worse third-round score and gone on to win a TOUR event since Kenny Knox (80) at the 1986 Honda Classic. (Nick Faldo shot a third-round 77 but bounced back to win the 1989 Masters.) …
• Daniel Summerhays, who had a three-shot lead going into the last round and was going for his first PGA TOUR victory in his 185th start, double-bogeyed the last hole for a 78 to drop into a tie for 10th place. Just 10 of 29 leaders or co-leaders through 54 holes have gone on to win on TOUR this season, most recently Kevin Chappell at the Valero Texas Open six weeks ago. …
• Bubba Watson made a long-awaited return to contention, taking the lead after making birdies on three of the first six holes. Alas, he made five bogeys and only one more birdie the rest of the way for a 1-over 73 to tie for sixth. It was his best finish this season in an individual stroke-play event, and will move him up from 118th to 106th in the FedExCup standings. …
• Jason Day shot 70 to move up 12 spots and finish T15. “It’s coming along,” Day said. “I feel like I'm starting to see the lines way better on the putting green. My chipping and touch around the greens and the bunker and the rough and even on the fairways is coming along nicely. I chipped in three times this week. The driving is pretty decent. I've just got to put everything together.” …
• Harold Varner used an 8-iron to ace the 164-yard eighth hole on the way to a final-round 70 and a T19 finish. He bought Jimmy John’s sandwiches for the media. …
• Justin Thomas, who was third in the FedExCup standings, shot a final-round 72 to tie for fourth place and pick up 122.5 points. That moved him past Hideki Matsuyama and into second place.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Jason Dufner comes up clutch for Shot of the Day
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
So pumped for my dude @JasonDufner. Guess you can't retire for another 3 years at least! 🏆— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) June 5, 2017
🏆 (Duf’s first on TOUR in 497 days) pic.twitter.com/LgGWnRmj5c— Skratch (@Skratch) June 5, 2017