Furyk and Dufner Experience Leading
The youth movement, in my opinion, has gone too far. We’ve reached the point where we begin to worry about a player who’s heading into the late 20s and hasn’t won everything in sight. “Poor thing,” we think – “he/she’s an also-ran.”
That’s the very dilemma we have this week. An old guy who has won a major in the past is the third round leader, and as everyone knows, an old guy can’t last four rounds at this level of competition. Not only that, it was proven by his epic collapse in last year’s U.S. Open. After all, Jim Furyk is forty-three years of age. What can you possibly do in this high-stakes professional golf industry at such an advanced age (Sam Snead and his astonishing longevity aside)? Besides, hardly anyone who leads after the third round can win anyway, much less such a geriatric example like Furyk.
Remembering, as best I can, the difference between 36, runner-up Jason Dufner’s age, and 43, not much comes to mind. The body gets funky over time, true, but the brain is pretty clever at compensating. I was able to do some things just as well or better past 43 – although unfortunately, golf wasn’t one of them. Frankly, I don’t remember there being much of a difference, and Dufner isn’t a kid, either.
To ascribe a fourth round collapse to age is utterly ridiculous for the numbers we’re talking about, with so many sound alternative reasons being available, such as a bad round of golf or caving into pressure, which happens fairly equally at any age. True, we haven’t heard from Jim Furyk for a while, but he was only gone in our perception, not his. Both his lifetime and 2013 winnings attest to the fact that he has continued to play, and play well through the years.
It’s not like Dufner set the world on fire as a younger man, either. I didn’t know who he was until the last few years, when he really excelled, and won twice. Much more entertaining than foolish speculation based on age, I am drawn to the contrast between the two. Furyk is affectionately, sometimes less affectionately, referred to as “the Grinder,” a commentary on his work ethic. His swing has been described as “an octopus falling out of a tree,” but it seems to work for the guy who was never truly trained for this business. It is said that he appears angry when he plays, but who knows what’s really going on in there? Intensity is reflected in a lot of individualistic facial expressions. More often than not, a player who is truly mad doesn’t stay a great player for long.
Dufner, on the other hand, is noteworthy for having some of the calmest nerves around, and it is said that he sauntered his way to his two victories. He almost won this tournament two years ago, at the advanced age 34. Incidentally, the venerable old Tiger Woods is 12 back – he must be feeling the onslaught of Father Time. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy has worked himself back to a six-point deficit.
In the final analysis, the facts speak for themselves. If Jim Furyk wins this thing, it will be the second consecutive major won by a 43 year-old. Mickelson not only won the Open, but the tune-up at the Scottish. Those who cite age as a deterrent obviously haven’t reached that age yet, and don’t know how viable it can really be.
It may happen that neither Furyk nor Dufner wins the PGA Championship in 2013, but if one of them doesn’t, it won’t be because they woke up Sunday morning with film over the eyes and a cane by the bedside. It’ll just mean they didn’t play a good enough to finish it off – nothing more.