2013 PGA Championship Interview: JASON DUFNER
KELLY ELBIN: Two years after coming so close to winning the 95th PGA Championship, Jason Dufner is raising the Wannamaker Trophy in triumph today. Jason won his first major championship finishing with a 2 under par 68 for a 72 hole total of 270 and a 2 stroke victory.
Jason, you're going to have that Wanamaker Trophy with your name on it for the rest of your life. How does it feel to be a PGA Champion?
JASON DUFNER: It feels great. Probably hasn't sunk in. Been running around here. Today was a tough day. The golf course, again, played pretty tough. Me and Jim, can kind of came down to a two man race there at the end. He's a great champion and he's played so well in so many Majors, and he's been there before.
So it was a tough test for me. The golf course was tough, but you know, like you said, my name will always be on this trophy, and nobody can take that away from me, so it's a great accomplishment for me and I'm really excited about it.
KELLY ELBIN: What would you say were the keys this week? You obviously hit a lot of good iron shots. Was the green in regulation number, which was very high, was that a big part of it?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, you know, for me to be competitive on this type of golf course, I felt like I had to have a great week ball striking and I was able to do it. I hit a lot of fairways. If I did miss the fairways, I wasn't in the thick, thick stuff, so I could manage to get it up by the greens. When I did hit the fairways, I hit a ton of greens, and that was the difference for me.
My scrambling was pretty good today. I see I only didn't get one ball up and down. That was on the last. But I felt like if I wanted to compete this week, I really had to put one of my best weeks ball striking so far this year.
Q. The 1998 Amateur was the first time you worked with Kevin as a caddie; is that right?
JASON DUFNER: That was the first time I had known Kevin for a long time before that through college. He's been a great friend of mine. We connected that week. He was a golfer. He was a member at one of the clubs in town. We used to play some and then he came up and caddied for me here that week.
Q. He told me in the locker room the only time he's ever seen you nervous was your wedding day; is that true?
JASON DUFNER: Probably not. I was pretty nervous on that first 3 footer today. But I come across as a pretty cool customer I guess, but there are definitely some nerves out there, especially when you're trying to win a major championship.
Q. You said yesterday that you were not going to watch the scoreboard at a certain point. At that point were you in the lead already when you started to look at it and how did it feel to be in the lead that early and maintain it?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, guys got close there a little bit early but I was playing with Jim who was the leader. I picked up a couple birdies around 4 and 5 and knew I was in the lead and actually started looking at it when I made the turn.
I think I was 2 up when I made the turn and I felt like if I could step on it, we got some birdie holes there. 10 is kind of a birdie hole, 12, 14, birdie holes. I felt like if I could step on it, I could distance myself a little bit, and that was my thought process today. I wasn't going to let up. I was going to keep trying to make birdies and keep trying to put the pressure on the rest of the field.
I think sometimes when you get careful, you make mistakes. I had four putts there, 10 through 13, that I felt like could I have made and I didn't make any of them. So that was a little bit frustrating and then you come to the meat of the course at the end and it's pretty tough. I knew where I stood the whole time. I knew I was 2 up. I was trying to make that putt on 17 and gave me a really nice cushion there going into 18. Those two holes played tough. I think a lot of guys made bogey coming in today.
So you know, I was just trying to keep one foot forward and not screw it up.
Q. How did the experience a couple years ago in Atlanta help you today?
JASON DUFNER: I tried to stay patient early on. I tried to be aggressive. I went for the par 5 fourth hole. I was thinking about laying up short of that. I ended up hitting 3 wood and made birdie there.
The fifth hole was a pretty tough pin there and I went right at it and stuffed it. A little bit of a combination of both; I knew that I had to stay patient, but I felt like I was hitting it pretty good and I hit a lot of shots close there early in the round which made it easy for me, not too much pressure on the putter today.
Q. When you look back, what was the key moment for you today?
JASON DUFNER: Probably that up and down on 15. That was a pretty tough spot I was in. I did not particularly care for the fan selection of that hole placement today (laughter). That was a pretty tough hole location there. I thought I hit a good shot, ends up rolling off the green. Kind of a squirrely lie in the fringe. You know, one of those balls that you could easily not get up and down and turn the round around. I ended up getting that one up and down and stuffed it there on 16.
Those two moments I think were pretty key in having the lead going into the last two holes.
Q. I know how important trees are for Auburn graduates, I heard you and Amanda took some acorns from the course. What's it going to be like for you to be able to watch the trees grow up after what happened to you this week?
JASON DUFNER: It's amazing. We purchased about 50 acres a couple years ago. We are currently building a home on it. So we'll have plenty of space to grow the trees and hopefully they will take root. We got a sapling actually the other day from the general manager here at Oak Hill. So at least that one will take root. I will have some trees out there, and it will be a neat experience, first major championship at Oak Hill and hopefully have some of their oak trees out there hopefully on the property.
Q. Jason, back here, do you
JASON DUFNER: I see you. Kind of. Couldn't miss you with that shirt on. Nice shirt.
Q. Thank you very much.
JASON DUFNER: Did you get that for free at least? (Laughter) Go ahead.
Q. Forgot what the question was. Do you like the fact that nobody who is watching you play golf knows what's going on inside you, and can you compare your heart rate from the first tee to, say, the 17th tee?
JASON DUFNER: You know, I felt really good today. The first tee is fine. The first green is tough for me sometimes, especially in this major championship. But I felt really calm. After I made that, I had about a 3 footer or so on the first hole for par and made that. I was really settled in and determined to play well today and give myself a chance.
17 and 18 are really tough holes. Hit a great drive on 17 that made me relax a little bit. But I felt good after I made that putt on the first hole, I would say I was pretty flatlined for most of the day.
Q. How did you focus today relative to yesterday and not making any big numbers, because it is the final round; and secondly, considering the last time when you played against Keegan, how did you focus on maintaining your lead late in the tournament?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, you know, yesterday was tough. I came off an unbelievable round on Friday, record setting round here at Oak Hill, tied the lowest score ever in a major championship, and yesterday was a real struggle for me. I had some shaky moments. For some reason when you shoot such a low score, it's hard to back that up.
But my goal yesterday was to stay in touch with whatever the lead might have been; if I was in the lead or if I was close to the lead, I felt like if I could get to Sunday, I would be really confident going into Sunday.
And then just experiencing being out here, trying to win tournaments, I've had leads in Majors and not pulled through. I always felt like that was going to make me a better player and more confident the next time that I had a chance.
And for whatever reason today, I felt really comfortable, really calm and felt like that I could do it. Felt like I could give myself a chance and pull this out.
Q. What was the experience like playing in Rochester with some of these great Rochester fans that come into Oak Hill, which is a pretty historic golf course?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, they love their golf here in Rochester, there's no doubt about it. They have had some great tournaments, U.S. Opens, PGA Championships, Ryder Cups. They have had a great amateur event in the summer that I've played and the U.S. Amateur was here. We have had some great golfers come out of here. I know Jeff Sluman is from here and I have a good friend of mine, Dominic Bozelli, who is from Rochester and he played at Auburn; and another guy I met at the U.S. Open, Gavin Hall; the Harmon's history here, an unbelievable golf town.
For them to get a tournament, it seems like every 8 to ten years, makes it really special for them. It's great to win in front of these folks. They are very knowledgeable about their golf and the history of the game goes way back here in Rochester and it's great to be part of that.
Q. A lot of golfers, when they win a major championship, talk about growing up and making a putt to win the Masters or making a putt to win the PGA Championship. Did you do that, and was it anything like what you experienced today?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I think I thought about that a lot. I thought about this putt here is to win the PGA Championship; to win whatever tournament it might have been. Fortunate with me, I had a little bit of a cushion there on the last hole, and that last putt was right in the perfect range for me to make it. There's not much to celebrate from six inches or less, but it was nice to have that short of a putt, and to cap this off, it will be, you know I didn't practice many four to six inchers to win a tournament, but you know, it was a perfect ending for me.
Q. Jason, pick an athlete from a different sport that you watched perform under this kind of pressure and succeed, and talk about what you admired about the way they handled that circumstance?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I watch a lot of sports. One of the reasons I watch is to see how these guys handle pressure, how they respond to situations. A good example this year and last year, being a Cleveland guy, LeBron James, he really struggled for a couple of times trying to get that championship, and just how they played with so much confidence; win, lose, they always seem to be confident with it, and that's what I tried to take from those guys.
I watch a lot of sports in person, and just to watch those guys and how they handle adversity, I think you can learn a lot more from them, and then how they can come back and succeed. You know, I try to learn from everybody that's around me, or people that I can see, because I think it really helps in these situations.
Q. Two questions. One, what did Keegan say to you when you guys hugged after the round? And two, from two years ago, does this when did you quit thinking about what happened, those last few holes?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I saw Keegan as I finished up, and we just kind of bro hugged, which I don't know how that goes over. He just said, "I'm proud of you."
And I just said, "Thanks a lot, it means a lot for you to be here." I was probably over what happened in Atlanta, 95 percent of it, by the time we got back home at Auburn.
You always carry those scars with you, he always jabbed at me a little bit about having one of these in his house, and thanks for giving it to him and all that stuff. And now I've got one, too. It's pretty neat to come back and win a PGA to be honest with you.
Q. Yesterday on 4, you were walking to the fifth tee after a putt you could have made; and obviously what happened on 5 today versus what happened yesterday, can you talk about the turn of events from yesterday to today?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, yesterday I had a pretty makeable putt on 4 and missed, and today I made it. Gave me a little bit of confidence. Yesterday I was trying to hit 3 wood off the fifth tee for some reason and today I was determined I was going to hit driver and be confident with it. I hit a great drive down there and had a perfect number for a pitching wedge and stuffed it. A tale of two days; yesterday, 2 over, and today, 2 under.
You know, it could be obviously the turning point in the day. Really got off to a good start yesterday. I was struggling with it, so I just feel like I maybe made a wrong decision in strategy yesterday, but I was determined not to let that happen today.
Q. How do you think this might change your life? Of course there's a lot of things that will come to you in the next year of the Grand Slam for one, and many other things, and you're going to be well known a lot more than you were in the past. How do you think you might handle it, and how is it going to change your life?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it's definitely going to change my life, but I'm determined that it's not going to change me. There's a lot of things that are going to come up tournament wise, different tournaments I can play in, different opportunities that are going to come my way, and I'm going to have to deal with that. I've got a great circle around me from a management team to my caddie to my wife to my coach that I'm looking for them to keep me in check to make sure that it doesn't change me.
It's going to be a difficult task. You hear a lot of guys, about the demands of winning a major championship and what that brings. But I'll have to take it step by step and day by day and go with it. We'll find out in the next couple weeks, the next couple months how that's going to go.
I'm determined to not let it change me and just maybe the surroundings that I'm in.
Q. I believe this week was the debut of Duf's Dips, your fan group; any thought of having them traveling with you?
JASON DUFNER: I don't know, they will have to pay their own expenses. Pretty expensive to travel out here, too.
It's great to have them out here. They are from Canada, close by. Great for them to come out and support me. Add a little bit to the excitement I guess. They were pretty jacked and excited about everything that transpired. I appreciate all the fans coming out and supporting and especially for them to come out and identify themselves a little bit.
Q. Can you just summarize what this year has been like from the Dufnering craze that started going on, all the way ending with now the PGA Championship?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, you know, it's been a little bit of a struggle on the golf course for me. I haven't played quite as well as I would like after last year. Got some notoriety for maybe something that was probably taken trying to hurt me a little bit and ran with it and it helped me a lot. I got a lot of fans because of it and people identified me through it, and that was good.
To win here at Oak Hill Country Club, PGA Championship, it's great. You know, puts me in a great position for the Playoffs coming up in a couple weeks. Puts me in a great position for The Presidents Cup. I'm pretty sure Freddie saw today, so hopefully I'll be on that team. So, you know, a lot of frustration with my golf this year, but to win a major, that always makes it better.
Q. Pretty strong list of winners on that trophy. Did you feel like you belonged in that group before you won this week?
JASON DUFNER: Probably not. I don't think you can ever claim to belong with a group of guys who have won Majors until you've done it. So, it's a great accomplishment. Hopefully it will propel me to some better things, some better golf, some more tournaments won, Majors won, more Ryder Cups, more Presidents Cups.
So I don't think you can claim that you belong in that category until you've done it. So now that I've done it, maybe I can sneak my foot in the back door and be back there with them.
Q. You went three times today with fairway wood, sort of chipping from off the green. It's not something we haven't ever seen, but three times in a major championship in a final round is pretty unusual. Can you talk about what made you decide to go that way with those times, how much you practice that technique and how confident you were, especially coming down the stretch, there was water on the back on the last one.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I feel pretty comfortable with that shot actually. I use it a lot when it's kind of in the fringe and up against the rough. It happens a good bit.
The lies I had today were kind of squirrely, a little rough. Didn't want to putt it. Didn't really want to chip it because I wasn't sure how that ball was going to come out. I haven't practiced to be honest with you, but I felt confident with that 3 wood coming out of there. It kind of bumps it and gets it rolling, and happened to get all three of them up and down today.
So that was definitely something that I had used before in the past. Wasn't something new to me, and actually I'm usually pretty good with it. So it was a good match.
Q. Of all the sports that you watched and all the players, have you seen anybody as no pulse flatlined as you appear to be?
JASON DUFNER: Probably not, but those sports are a little bit more exciting: Big plays in basketball, home runs in baseball, big plays in football; that will get you pumped up.
For me, golf is a little bit more boring I think. It's pretty matter of fact. I hit it in the fairway or I didn't; I hit the green or I didn't. Usually I'm struggling with the putter, so there's not too much to get excited about with that (laughing).
You know, I think just watching those guys, you can get a sense of how they come back, how they let things in the past go and continue to plod forward. So I can't think of anybody that comes to mind right now. Jordan was pretty good with it, but he got pretty excited out there, too, at times.
Q. You had a Tweet last November, I think it was, that listed this among your Top 5 favorite courses. I'm just curious, a couple of questions, why would that be the case, aside from the obvious Hogan connection? And then secondly, as frustrated as you were at times with your game this year, did you sort of Mark this on your calendar as a place where something special could happen because of that?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I put that list out and I meant what I said. It's a great golf course and it's a ball striker's golf course. I think you really have to hit a lot of different shot out here, shape the ball differently. It really tests you off the tee and it really tests you into the greens. You know, guys tend to like golf courses that suit their games, and I felt like this place suited my game.
What was the second question? Something about my frustration level?
Q. As frustrated as you were at points this summer, did you look at this venue and this tournament as maybe where something special to happen?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it was a tough year up until this point, but I always felt like I could compete in the Majors because guys aren't running away with it score wise. If you look at the Majors, usually the 4 under to 10 under range, you can do pretty good, even over par in the Majors. I feel like I strike the ball so well that I'm never going to shoot too high of scores.
So coming into a major, coming into Oak Hill, I felt like I had a great chance to be competitive this week.
Q. Being from Auburn, can you talk about what this means for Auburn and its community and War Eagle?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, War Eagle, I think it's going to be great. Got a lot of support from the fans, from Auburn people, from the people in town. I think they are going to be pretty excited about it. I think there might be a role in the Tigers' (phonetic) corner in the near future. No player from Auburn that's played there has ever won a major championship. John Huston did pretty well out here, he's won a couple of events. To win a major, it's pretty special for the Auburn family.
Q. You won the PGA Championship, and of the next three Majors, is there one in particular that you have your eyes set on?
JASON DUFNER: I always feel like I can compete at a U.S. Open, ball striker's do pretty well there. I've had a great history at Augusta.
So maybe, you know, those venues will be good for me. Maybe it will be a good test. But we'll cross that road a little bit later. Just going to enjoy this one now.
Q. While you were actually playing today, did you ever have the thought, this is a major championship and not an ordinary tournament, or could you maybe block that out?
JASON DUFNER: You always have that feeling. The crowds are bigger, the courses are tougher; you know where you're at. You know what's going on. You try to act like it's not that big a deal, but it is a pretty big deal.
I've played in enough of them. I know what to expect now. I know what to expect from the fan base. I know what to expect from the golf course setup, and I know what to expect from how the guys are going to react to the pressure and how I'm going to react to the pressure.
I was just confident that I was going to put my best foot forward and just really hang in there and try to win this thing at the end.
Q. All the attention coming in here this week was on Tiger, a lot of it on Phil. Did that motivate you at all to be the underdog? Do you like being in the underdog role, and did the fact that the attention was on the other guys, did that help you at all to get into this thing?
JASON DUFNER: Not really. I don't use external sources to motivate me. I motivated myself to do well out here.
Those guys get a lot of attention every week. They deserve it. They have won a ton of Majors between them, a ton of tournaments. You know, 1,2 in the world; they deserve the attention. They have had great seasons. Phil's won a major this year. Tiger's still searching for a major.
But I don't get jealous in the fact that they get so much attention or feel like an underdog. I think I've done some great things out here, and try to motivate myself. I've got a great team that motivates me. My wife's constantly motivating me to play well. You know, I don't need other sources to kind of motivate me.
KELLY ELBIN: Congratulations to Jason Dufner, the 95th PGA Championship.
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