On a day where several compelling stories were screaming to be told, it was the quiet player who spoke the loudest.
Jason Dufner drained a 25-foot putt to claim his second win on the PGA tour in the past three weeks, which vaulted him to the top of the Fed Ex Cup standings. He picked up his first career win at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans on April 29. Oh, and he also just got back from a honeymoon with his beautiful new bride in between said victories.
It’s not tough being Duff these days.
Dufner’s putt curled to the left and into the center of the cup for a birdie and one-stroke victory, inciting a roar from the crowd and a rare fist pump from the stoic thirty-five year old.
One of those applauding the putt was runner-up Dicky Pride. He was in the best position to appreciate the magnitude of Dufner’s clinching putt— he had just rolled in a 22-footer for par from almost the exact same position on the green to post 10-under as Dufner and J.J. Henry came to the 18th tee box.
The forty-two year-old Pride was looking for his first tour win since 1994, when he claimed the St. Jude’s Classic in a playoff over Hal Sutton and Gene Sauers.
However, Dufner did on 18 what he had done all week— land the ball in the fairway, and then safely on the green to set up the dramatic finish.
There was not a shortage of Sunday contenders, with four players being tied for the lead at one point. Among the hard chargers was Phil Mickelson, who streaked to 8-under through 16 holes and sat one shot back of the leaders.
And then, for the second time in as many weeks, a water-laden par-three 17th played a major role in the outcome. Mickelson landed a shot on the front right part of the green and had a makeable putt for birdie and a share of the lead, which he drove four feet past the hole. His comebacker horseshoed around the cup and out, and Phil was all but out of the running.
He wasn’t the only victim there late in the day. Henry came to the tee with a one stroke lead over Dufner, but blasted his tee shot 28 yards past the hole, and scrambled his way to his only double bogey of the tournament. It was a cruel turn of events for Henry, who planted the green on the par-three 5th with his tee shot and spun it back into the hole.
Dufner’s path to victory was unique, at least statistically. Nobody made more birdies for the tournament (19). Yet, he ranked low in major putting categories – putts per green in regulation (54th), putts per round (52nd), and strokes gained putting (56th). Notwithstanding, on Sunday, he had his most successful day with the flat blade, with an average of 1.714 putts per green in regulation.
His biggest asset was accuracy, both off the tee and with his irons. He finished 2nd in driving accuracy and 1st in greens in regulation for the tournament.
If he can put that consistency together with a hot putting stretch like he did on Sunday, he could wind up making a lot more noise this summer.