Dufner or Duffer
It’s interesting how time and circumstance can redefine a player.
On Sunday at Atlanta Athletic Club, Jason Dufner stood on the 15th tee with what he didn’t know was a five-shot lead. After putting his tee shot in the water he made a great save for a bogey, he bogeyed the next hole from the greenside bunker and added a third consecutive bogey with a three-putt at 17.
While Dufner was sliding Keegan Bradley was climbing. After his triple bogey at the same 15th, Bradley picked up consecutive birdies at sixteen and seventeen, tied Dufner in regulation and went on to win the three-hole playoff by a stroke. Dufner will forever be known by the “choke” performance over the closing holes. But did he?
Jason Dufner, at age 34 has been a PGA Tour itinerant golfer. He has scrambled to stay on Tour. He has never won an event. Coming into the PGA Championship he had missed four cuts in his last five events. No one could foresee or explain his play over the first 68 holes of the Championship. As his lead built early on the back nine Sunday in Atlanta, people were at a loss to explain how he could play so steady and apparently devoid of major nerves. And then the collapse.
So did he choke or did he just revert to his standard level of play? If he had won would his performance have been the new norm for his week in and week out play on the PGA Tour, or would he have been more the “duffer” than the new Dufner?
It may be quibbling but I see choking as failing to deliver your skills in the heat of the moment. If a poor shooter misses a three at the buzzer, does he choke or just continue to be a poor shooter? If a .220 hitter fails to drive in a run in the bottom of the ninth to win the game, does he choke or just hit to his average?
I suspect Jason Dufner has bogeyed three of the last four holes on Sunday a number of times. He just picked the wrong Sunday and the wrong moment to let us all see it this time.
The Long and Short of It
Among the several firsts associated with Keegan Bradley’s PGA Championship win is becoming the first player to win a major using a long putter. With Adam Scott’s win the week before at Firestone, it is back to back with the “broomsticks.” They have become all the rage in the game, and the haven of every struggling putter on the links.
I won’t say I think the USGA should outlaw them. They have become far too ubiquitous to step in at this time. But I will tell you the USGA has taken a historically hypocritical position in letting them live within the rules.
Many years ago the late Sam Snead had reached a level of frustration on the greens born of the yips, that he decided to take a drastic step. He went to a mallet head putter designed to be played by straddling the line and putting croquet style. It not only gave him tremendous sighting advantages, it allowed him to slide his right hand down the shaft and silence the yips. Snead immediately found success.
It didn’t take long for the USGA to step in and rewrite the rules to effectively ban the “croquets” by denying the right to straddle the line. The argument then was to protect the game by banning a putter that changed the skills required to play the game fairly.
Today players are allowed to anchor putters to their chins, sternum or belly and eliminate the need to have the free standing putting strokes they were incapable of creating on their own.
I would argue Snead’s croquet method was closer to the spirit of the game as it has been played, than the new accommodation of the long putters. The USGA has rules against the size of driver clubheads, the length of driver shafts, the dimpling on golf balls but anchoring a club to your body with an artificially long putter is perfectly acceptable. I suppose I am too dense to see the difference.
Tiger Mania II
If you could have sat at the same table I sat at this week and listened to the commentary and analysis of some of the most respectable and recognizable scribes in the game of golf — as Tiger Woods flailed his way through his second day at the PGA Championship — I know you would have been entertained. I know I was stunned.
Professional courtesy and privacy (and a mild consideration of legal concerns) prevents me from listing the range of theories and analysis of the state of Tiger as of August 2011. Suffice it say that any conversation that even laughingly includes O.J. Simpson in the mix gets a little extreme.
Being a small time entity in the game of golf ,who respects and learns from being around such experts, and who has nothing approaching the sources of these pros this much can be believed.
No one has a clue as to what is going on with Tiger Woods, or a clear sense of what, if any, is the way out. When suggested remedies range from a long hiatus to a rubber room we can only conclude that Woods walls prevent any serious speculation and puts the rest on a par with discussions of the existence of extraterrestrials beings.
I have offered my own take several weeks ago based on observable and documental facts about Woods. I am resigned to waiting to see what time and practice produces for him going forward.
Dan Reardon is Golf Editor at KMOX. He can be heard throughout the week on America’s Sports Voice.