Dufner back in the Winners’ Circle
By Peter Santo
While all of America (myself included) was glued to their television sets watching the Conference Championship games in the NFL, Jason Dufner was busy doing something he hadn’t done in over two years, winning.
Dufner escaped “Alcatraz” and won the CareerBuilder Challenge by one shot in a playoff over David Lingmerth. Dufner parred the second playoff hole to seal the victory after Lingmerth hooked his second shot into the water hazard.
We all remember Dufner’s laser straight drives and precise iron shots as he ran away with the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill. It looked like we were watching a star be born that week, someone who would be a perennial winner for years to come. Dufner always had a solid game tee to green, it was his putter that would let him down at times.
The win is Dufner’s first since that 2013 PGA Championship and his fourth win overall. But it did not come without some drama. Dufner was tied with Lingmerth for the lead as he headed to the 17th hole in regulation, a hole with an island green known as “Alcatraz.”
Dufner pulled an 8 iron off the tee and thought it landed in the water, but the ball came to rest between the rocks that lined the edge of the green. Hoping to capitalize on his big break, Dufner got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament.
“I was like, ‘Man, this is a great break I’m going to take advantage of it,'” Dufner said. “This is what I need. I need this right now. I need this break to happen. I’m confident with what I can do with this shot and I need to make this happen and get a par.”
Dufner also needed to convert an 11 foot putt for par on the first playoff hole just to extend the playoff.
“I like those situation putts,” Dufner said. “It’s kind of like what we see in The Presidents Cup in match play. Because if I miss it, there’s no next putt, it doesn’t really matter.”
Dufner finally got his second big break after Lingmerth hooked his second shot into the water on the second playoff hole. “The rough is a little heavy in some spots and it grabbed my club a little bit more,” Lingmerth said. “It really wasn’t a bad swing. I should have probably choked up a little bit more on the grip. … A small mistake that was very costly.”
The 38 year old American is hoping that this victory early in the season will carry over for the rest of the season.
“I’m excited for this year,” Dufner said. “I’m excited to accomplish one of my goals this early in the year. I’m excited to keep playing well. I feel like I’m doing some really good stuff.”