Jason Dufner started the weekend with a five-shot lead at the Memorial Tournament. Then he lost it with a Saturday 77 that gifted a three-shot lead to Daniel Summerhays for Sunday’s final round.
And yet, Dufner won the Memorial by three on Sunday on the back of a closing 4-under 68 that pulled him squarely ahead of a long, mounting list of final-day challengers. The 2013 PGA champion did it all amid multiple weather delays just outside of Columbus, Ohio, including making two birdies in a three-hole stretch before draining a tournament-clinching 30-foot par putt on the 18th hole to put the event out of reach.
If you believe him — and there’s no reason not to, candor is the guy’s M.O. — Dufner said he would have been happy even if he had come up short because it’s another indication he had gotten himself into the kind of form that could win again. Overcoming the Saturday 77 was as big of a deal as it was to shake Jack Nicklaus’ hand in getting the trophy.
“You have a lot of setbacks out here on the PGA Tour, to rebound from it and give myself a chance to win…I was going to be proud whether I won today or not because I got back in contention and that’s what all of us want to do come Sunday at the PGA Tour,” he said.
Dufner, who has found his form in the middle half of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, credits that somewhat with finding his love again for golf. He has found it, in part, through spending time with younger guys like Fowler, who he played with on Sunday, and Jordan Spieth.
“There have been times where I’ve kind of fallen in and out of love with golf, to be honest with you,” the 40-year-old said. “It was good to be around those guys. They’re excited. They’re passionate. They’re working hard at it. They want to play good. They’re hungry. They want to win tournaments. They want to win majors. So for me to be around them I think helped me kind of get to this point.”
In fact, Dufner went to far as to spend golf’s brief off-season in Jupiter, Fla., playing golf with Fowler, Spieth, Justin Thomas and others in casual games. Those guys love golf. Dufner, who had been thinking about golf as more of a job at this stage in his career, said it kind of rubbed off on him.
“We had a good winter,” he said. “I spent a lot of time down there in November and December, and I spent all of February down there. He was down there a lot. So I played with those guys a lot. Played with Justin Thomas a lot, and Rickie. We had some good matches. I think it was good for me.”