Dufner’s Calm Leads to a Win
Tranquil Golfer Wins the Memorial – Youngsters Love It
Jason Dufner had a very good day Sunday. He won the Memorial, received one and a half million dollars for his efforts, and got a handshake from Jack Nicklaus on his way out the door. He’s around forty years old now, so I guess that makes him a venerable elder on tour. He is quiet, tranquil, studied, and anti-boisterous…and the younger players love him for it. My perspective is skewed, as I have difficulty thinking of 40 as old, and as for younger people showing any interest in me or what I’m doing – well, they’d be around 40. Any younger than that, and we become separate species.
In a lesson to all of us, it wasn’t just the birdies on 15 and 17 that pulled Dufner out of a possible playoff with unlikely buddy Ricky Fowler. It was that 30 foot par putt in between that took an equal share of saving the day. Who knows how a playoff is going to go? That’s PGA win number 5 for Dufner, includiing one major, the PGA. Add to that some top finishes and flashes of brilliance in other majors, and you’ve got a nice little career going. Dufner should probably take advantage of the invitations younger players offer to join them in carousing in the Caribbean, or anywhere kids take spring break these days. Millions of us would love to know his secret. My mother was that way – a great listener and empathizer for hours on end, without saying more than five or ten words herself. Then she gets invited all sorts of places. Maybe that’s what Jason has going for him.
With Dufner’s return to glory comes the memory of what has been called Dufnering. He has been described as preferring a “flat-line” type of approach to life and golf. Of course, those are bouncing off the walls one moment and depressed the next will make it sound as if there is something wrong with that, but it may be quite the opposite. Dufner’s, shall we say it this way, ‘meditative’ style of managing himself on the course is anti-manic, anti-undisciplined, and anti-collapse in the face of bad news. That’s another lesson we could all learn from a man perfectly suited to recovering from a bad hole. Where some other sports call for a sudden surge of inspiration, physical explosion or a controlled type of hysteria, we’re in it for the long haul when it comes to golf. Even momentary hysteria in golf puts us in the weeds studying new species of plants and animals.
I’ve always suspected that the low-burn path to victory also aids in longevity, and in Dufner’s case, we’ll see. The seemingly blank expression produced by Dufnering is deceptive. It looks like the person isn’t listening, concentrating, or even thinking. It amy be that Dufner is just shutting out what he doesn’t need. We remember what happened to Arnold Palmer when he stopped along the way to a Masters victory to greet fans, and blew the tournament. We’ve seen what happens to a man like Jean Van de Velde when the internal movie speeds up at the wrong time and causes a thread of rash decisions. We’ve seen how a high performance engiine like Tiger Woods doesn’t necessarily survive the decades. Maybe it’s true that the candle that burns the brightest burns the shortest. I can’t help but think that Jason Dufner is going to play one great game of golf long after he has retired.
All that having been said, and impressed as I am by the Dufner mystique, if a bunch of kids ever invite me to the Bahamas, I’m going.