by Jeff Skinner
Jason Dufner finally got that monkey off his back. In is 164th PGA Tour start he took a Hall of Famer to overtime and out lasted him. Dufner had a two stroke lead at the start of the final round of the Zurich Classic but saw it disappear as Ernie Els shot a five under 67 to tie Dufner at the end of regulation play. But it was Dufner that was able to birdie before Els for a change and wound up as the last man standing.
Ernie has been so very open about his desire to win again and his re-dedication to his game has been evident. In his last six starts he has four top tens and a tie for twelfth. The Big Easy just missed a win in the Big Easy but today wasn’t Ernie’s day. Today was a day of vindication for Jason Dufner.
Jason Dufner has been labeled a choker and a hard luck case ever since his meltdown at the 2011 PGA Championship but today was his day, finally.
Dufner shook off his habit of poor Sunday rounds and parred his way to his first PGA Tour win. Dufner ran off eight straight pars to finish regulation and another on the first playoff hole before a birdie finally found the cup on the second playoff hole.
Dufner had overcome a double crossed tee ball on sixteen that left him in lake a mere yards from an alligator. Not wanting to tempt the gator he took a drop and then promptly dropped a monster 50 foot putt to save par. Two more pars kept him tied with Els and The Big Easy and Duff settled it in the playoff.
Ernie missed a six foot putt to win on the first playoff hole and Dufner closed out the battle with his birdie as they played eighteen once again.
”It’s always really tough playing on Sundays whether you’re in lead or middle of pack, and today I was fighting, trying to win event, and I think I showed myself a good bit out there,” Dufner said. ”It was tough. Ernie made a great run at me and it felt like with five or six holes (to go) we were probably going to be battling for the win.
”To get the monkey off of my back, it’s a great feeling.”
Dufner’s expression never changed all day. It didn’t matter if he was making birdie, grabbing his ball from the gator, holing that bomb on 16 or shaking Ernie’s hand after the win: he showed no emotion at all. It wasn’t until he hugged his fiancé that a smile, a small one, crossed his lips. He gets married this Saturday.
It was Dufner’s day, the day the monkey was finally gone and maybe Jason Dufner can finally smile.