The beautiful thing about the Post-Tiger Era is, it flowers in so many different ways.
You have your Bubba Watson Moment, wearing the green jacket after a golf shot for the ages. You have Rory McIlroy settling in as the likely long-term new No. 1 in the world. You have Matt Kuchar winning big at Sawgrass, telling reporters to "suck it" if they doubt his closing ability. You have Rickie Fowler arriving for the "Ironic Mustache" generation. You have Hunter Mahan grabbing multiple wins and big checks, helping us all overcome the mental image of him in a fur vest, shirtless, in the "Golf Boys" video.
And now, we have Jason (The Walking Coma) Dufner getting his.
It's like a post-apocalyptic landscape, these years since Tiger's fall. Like Mad Max roaming the wreckage, golfers are grabbing what they can. And if it means we get to know Dufner better, good. I like the cut of this guy's jib.
Win at New Orleans for the first victory in career? Blasé Dufner can't be bothered to emote. Back it up with a win two starts later at Byron Nelson, including a 25-foot birdie on 72nd hole for a one-shot victory? The mildest of reactions ensued. Compared to this guy, Clint Eastwood looks like a member of LMFAO.
In a "me-first" sports era of jersey-popping and touchdown dances, Dufner gives you nothing. And it's somehow very hip.
Between Dufner's two wins on April 29 and May 20, he squeezed in a wedding to his beautiful wife Amanda on May 5. That makes him the author of the greatest month on the PGA Tour since John Daly won at Crooked Stick and then partied for the next 29 days.
Here's the best part: All evidence points to Dufner – whose soul patch and ubiquitous lip of tobacco add to his hang-loose vibe – sticking around for a while. Naturally, two wins in three starts (he had a tie-68 at Sawgrass, excusable considering the nuptials the prior week) tells us something.
Look at his numbers, too. Dufner is tough off the tee. He's sixth on Tour in driving accuracy, fourth overall in total driving. And don't look for him missing greens. He's 13th on tour in greens in regulation. Granted, his putting numbers (122nd in strokes gained putting) aren't stellar, but when you score your golf ball the way Dufner does – 67-66-67-69 at the Nelson – and hit it close like he does, you don't need a molten putter as much as the next guy.
Add in some self-belief and all of a sudden Dufner arrives at the next few majors as a name on the short list of contenders, not to mention a Ryder Cup favorite this fall. He even told reporters at the Nelson his game sets up well for a U.S. Open. That doesn't count as woofing, because Dufner doesn't have a woofing gene in his DNA.
Plus, the guy's golf swing is fun to watch. His hands are dynamite, and he seems fully in control of his ability to strike the ball. Contact is pure, and even his pre-shot waggle carries a bit of style, made more stylish by the sound the club makes at impact. If there's such a thing as being "aggressively calm," that's how Dufner is when he stalks a golf hole. Totally chill – until he pures it. That much was shown when he roasted his drive on No. 18, oblivious to the pressure. He had sand wedge in.
A fun side note to his Nelson win is that Dufner, a tried and true Auburn University graduate, clipped diehard Alabama alum Dicky Pride by one shot with that 72nd-hole birdie. Iron Bowl on the links, don't you know. Pride was a hell of a story himself, trying to win for the first time since 1994. He gutted out a hat trick of birdies on 15-16-17, and then overcame a water ball on 18 to fight his way to a par that brought Peggy Nelson, Byron's widow, out of her chair with joy.
Pride was philosophical after the runner-up finish, happy with his play, then needled Dufner on CBS: "Jason got me by one, but we got the BCS National Championship, big man."
Dufner couldn't be bothered to needle back. He was probably getting congratulatory texts from Cam Newton and Bo Jackson. Or, more likely, he was too busy being Jason Dufner, which is the coolest thing to be these days.
Scorecard of the week
Azahara Munoz d. Morgan Pressel, 2 and 1, semifinals, LPGA Sybase Match Play, Hamilton Farm Golf Club, Gladstone, N.J.
I think we can all agree on this one, fellow duffers: When The Man tells you to play faster, play faster.
Sympathy is in short supply for the Go-Slo Flos and Slo-Play Fayes of the world, as World Golf Hall of Famer Dan Jenkins once dubbed fictional methodical players on the women's circuit.
This is not a gender issue, note. Kevin Na's travails last week at Sawgrass brought it into focus on the PGA Tour, and the same criticism applies: Get a move on, dude.
In case you missed it, the slow-play call on Morgan Pressel came at a critical time in her match with Munoz. Pressel just won the par-3 12th hole to move to 3-up. That is, until LPGA official Doug Brecht informed her on the 13th tee she'd taken 2:09 to play three golf shots, 39 seconds over the allotted 30 seconds per shot.
Worse, the pair had been warned for slow play after the ninth hole.
Pressel revs hot under normal circumstances, but after seeing her 3-up lead evaporate to 1-up, she wound up losing the match. The match had further controversy when Pressel accused Munoz of grounding her putter before the ball on No. 15, an accusation denied by rules officials who checked a TV replay.
While some might think it bush of Pressel to try and turn the mental tables on Munoz, as a lifelong baseball fan I appreciated her gamesmanship. That's straight out of the Billy Martin, "Hey, ump, does George Brett's bat have too much pine tar?" book of psychology.
Pressel reportedly blew off an interviewer after the round, uttering "Not a chance," according to eyewitnesses. If true, it's weak. Pressel needs to address the issue, as it's become a pressing one among those of us who watch golf. Pace of play counts toward enjoyment of the game. There is something rhythmic to golf played within time limits, and there is something distracting about golf played too slowly. This is entertainment, after all, and if you can't hit your golf shot in 30 seconds, you're not entertaining us.
Sorry, Morgan. Have to side with The Man on this one.
By the way, Munoz wound up winning the event and pocketing $375,000. Pressel hugged her and congratulated her after the victory. At least she was on time for that. Oh!
Mulligan of the week
So many choices this week. Dicky Pride nearly had a lock on M.O.W. by rinsing his tee shot on No. 18, tied for the lead, eyeing his first win in 18 years. But Pride made a laudable par on the hole and gave a good lights-out game face when he made the lengthy putt for "4" to stay tied for the lead.
And Marc Leishman, trying for his first win, missed a short putt on 17 to tumble from the lead. A candidate, yes.
But for a guy who will rue a golf shot the most, it was 70-hole leader J.J. Henry, trying to win for only the second time in his career on tour. A Connecticut Yankee schooled at Fort Worth's TCU, he was trying for the "Personal Slam," as his other win was in the Nutmeg State.
On No. 17 tee, however, Henry nuked his tee shot on the downhill par-3, clearly overcome with adrenaline. Situated in the worst possible swale behind the green, Henry had no chance to get it close. Predictably, he not only missed the long par putt, but also missed the short-ish comebacker to make double-bogey 5. Ouch! Bye-bye, "Personal J.J. Henry Slam;" hello, four-way tie for third place.
So, let's go back out to 17 tee, remind Henry to take a few breaths, think about hitting that green, remind him that Horned Frogs alums were watching and … give that man a mulligan!
Broadcast moment of the week
"She was up for everything. We had such a great week. There's so much to do here in Dallas. Went to two Rangers games, went to Six Flags, went to a water park, movies. She and I had a special week." – Phil Mickelson on CBS, describing his "Date Week" with daughter Sophia at the Byron Nelson.
"I feel totally inadequate. I had my daughter here and took her for a pizza. What kind of dad am I?" – Nick Faldo, forlorn, responding to Mickelson's interview.
Gotta love Phil. Not only is he a four-time major champion and newly-minted Hall of Famer, he's also early leader for Cool Dad of the Year.
Where do we go from here?
Not far, boys. The Tour goes across the Metroplex from the Byron Nelson to Fort Worth's Colonial Invitational, an old-school shot-maker's course that shares, along with Riviera in L.A.., the moniker "Hogan's Alley." Hogan was so good, he had two alleys.
No Tiger, Phil or Rory at Colonial, but who cares? Dufner, Fowler, Kuchar and Mahan – the new American golf mafia – are all signed up to play. Believe it or not, that makes it a good field. Everybody's getting theirs.
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