Golf Tidbits: Oak strong Dufner wins first major

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Updated: 8/12/2013 2:41 pm

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Overcoming disappointment in major championship golf is one of the toughest things to do in the sport.

Jean van de Velde is prime example. After blowing the 1999 British Open, he only posted two top-20 finishes in eight more major championship starts and had just one more victory on the European Tour.

Jason Dufner collapsed at the 2011 PGA Championship. After a par on the 14th that year, Dufner led Keegan Bradley by five strokes, but he bogeyed three in a row, while Bradley carded a pair of late birdies.

That 5-shot swing led to a playoff, in which Bradley came out on top.

Dufner could have folded and just meandered along as a middling tour pro. Instead, he used the loss as a springboard.

Since that loss, Dufner has nine worldwide top-5 finishes, including his first three PGA Tour titles. He admitted he was just about over the loss by the time he got home.

With the title on the line, this time Dufner fought off Jim Furyk to win his first major championship. Furyk has struggled the last two years at closing out tournaments and has been there before.

Furyk won the 2003 U.S. Open, but coughed up the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational and U.S. Open in 2012. He has yet to bounce back from those defeats, but had his day.

Dufner played a steady game with precise irons. Though he hit just three fairways on the front nine of the final round, Dufner took advantage of two of them.

He stuffed those two approach shots inside a foot and made a pair of birdies. Dufner found his groove off the tee on the back nine and that helped keep his iron game locked in.

Dufner's birdie at No. 8 coupled with Furyk's bogey at nine was the turning point as the duo matched scores -- six pars, one birdie and two bogeys -- over the final nine holes.

The victor's final putt was a simple tap in, which was fitting on this day

"I didn't practice many four-to-six inchers to win a tournament, but you know, it was a perfect ending for me," Dufner said.

Afterwards, one of the first players to congratulate Dufner was Bradley, who said in a televised interview that he had left the course, but wanted to comeback to cheer Dufner on.

"I saw Keegan as I finished up, and we just kind of bro hugged, which I don't know how that goes over," Dufner stated. "He just said, 'I'm proud of you.' And I just said, 'Thanks a lot, it means a lot for you to be here.'"

Dufner is quite the opposite of Bradley, too. Bradley is the fist-pumping, back-slapping teammate that will get you jacked up. Dufner is the laid back, chilled-out guy that will keep you on an even keel.

The personalities fit each player to a tee.

Dufner meanders along looking like nothing is ever bothering him. Rarely does he show negative emotion, and his crazy over-the-top reaction was the fist- pump he gave after holing out for eagle on the second hole on Saturday.

To borrow a line from Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, "slow and low, that is the tempo."

Not only does that describe Dufner's gait while walking down the fairways, it also describes his swing.

He may seem dull and lifeless, but Dufner stays true to what got him where he is. The rare emotional outbursts are what keep him in his own game.

Dufner does not fit the current mold of golfer -- skinny and fit -- but his game belongs with those at the top of the game right now.

SCOTT, WESTWOOD HAVE STELLAR MAJOR CAMPAIGNS

Winning a major championship is the be-all, end-all for many golfers. Most will not accomplish that feat.

One doesn't always need to win one of the big four to have a great season in the majors. Adam Scott did win one, but Lee Westwood didn't. However, they both had stellar seasons in the four biggest events on the calendar.

Scott started his year with a playoff win at the Masters. That was his first major championship title, and helped erase the disappointment from his loss at the 2012 British Open.

The Australian struggled to a tie for 54th at the U.S. Open. For the second year in a row, Scott took the lead on the final nine at the Open Championship, but, for the second straight year, lost that late lead.

Scott ended in a share of third at Muirfield. At Oak Hill, he shared the first-round lead and was near the top of the leaderboard the rest of the week, but ended in a tie for fifth.

A win and two other top-5s in the majors is a excellent season. Scott was the lone player with three top-5s in the four majors this year.

Westwood was steady at the Masters, but his third-round 73 cost him. He ended in eighth there. At the U.S. Open, he shot 77 in round two and that was the difference between his tie for 15th and a possible top-5 finish. Westwood would have had a top-5 at Merion if he was four strokes better in round two.

The Englishman was the third-round leader at the British Open, but stumbled to a 4-over 75 to slide into a share of third. Westwood went 6-under par in rounds one and three at Oak Hill, but poor second and final rounds left him at plus-3 overall and in a share of 33rd for the championship.

The pair had two of the best major championship seasons this year. Scott finally broke through for his first major, but Westwood failed to do the same.

Regardless, both had great seasons in the biggest events of the year.

MINI-TIDBITS

* The Solheim Cup is this week, and it sure looks like everything favors the Americans. They have a stronger, more experienced team, but you never know in these team events. That being said, the Europeans haven't won once in the United States. I'm guessing the Americans win by four or five points.

* The PGA Championship might rank fourth among the major championships in some people's eyes, but the field did have 99 of the top 100 players competing. Only the injured Louis Oosthuizen didn't play. But do they need 20 club pros? Usually one of them makes the cut and gives you a good story on the weekend, but only three of the 20 were within six strokes of the cut this year. Tough year for that group.

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