You can’t make up stuff like this.
You can’t make up a story of craziness and turnarounds and blown rounds like the events that transpired the past four days up in Dublin, Ohio, at the Place That Jack Built.
Muirfield Village is one of the finest stops on the PGA Tour, it is the best, like the man who founded it — Jack Nicklaus.
For the first two days of Jack’s party, Jason Dufner basically played like Nicklaus did in his prime. The man who invented “Dufnering” simply took the place apart on back-to-back days, shooting 65-65 and making just one bogey in 36 holes.
“He’s blitzing the golf course,” Nicklaus sighed. Deep down inside Jack doesn’t want to see guys “blitzing” his creation, the one named after his favorite golf course — Muirfield over in Scotland.
It’s hard to tell what Dufner is shooting. Always looks like his heart rate is about 40 beats per minute. Duf’s still getting over some personal stuff too. Ex-trophy wife Amanda divorced him a little more than a year ago and made off with about three million of his hard-earned dollars.
Duf went through some emotional and game rehab, stayed with always-upbeat pal Rickie Fowler in his palatial Jupiter riverfront mansion earlier this year and put in some serious work at The Bear’s Club, Nicklaus’ posh ultra-private course in Jupiter that has one of the country’s finest practice facilities.
Duf’s also got a new girlfriend. Good for you, Duf!
Sorry, back to The Memorial.
Ole Duf was killing ’em, 14-under par through 36, five-shot lead on a course that doesn’t yield numbers like that. Thank the perfect weather, no wind and Duf playing like he used to when he won the 2013 PGA.
Then Saturday happened.
Dufner’s wheels came off after four straight bogeys starting at the second hole and it was game-on. By day’s end, he had gone from glory to goat. He shot 77 and saw unheralded Daniel Summerhays take over the lead at 13-under par. Dufner fell all the way back to nine-under, four behind going into Sunday. It was a nine-shot turnaround.
“Obviously yesterday (Saturday) wasn’t my best day,” Dufner would say late Sunday. Did we mention that Duf is a man of few words?
Not to worry. Duf wasn’t done, wasn’t throwing in the golf towel.
“I saw him early Sunday and he told me he was still in it,” Nicklaus said of an encounter with Dufner. No, Duf didn’t give Jack any tips on “Dufnering.”
Summerhays knew he’d be nervous on Sunday.
“I’ve never walked through that door,” he said after he grabbed the 54-hole lead. “There will definitely be nerves.”
There were plenty of nerves early in his round. A double at three then a bogey at four opened the door for Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and yes, The Duf.
Summerhays hung in there until bogeys at 10 and 11 doomed him and he’d shoot 41 coming home for 78. He was feeling Dufner’s third round pain.
Dufner was biding his time, shot even on the front and kept himself in it. Birdies at 10 and 12 got him to 11-under but he was a shot behind playing partner and pal Rickie. Fowler birdied 11 to get to 12-under and looked like the guy to beat until he bogeyed the 14th and couldn’t get it up-and-down from that gnarly Nicklaus greenside rough.
Watson bowed out with a bunch of bogeys, Kuchar couldn’t make a move, leaving this one to Rickie and Duf.
Fifteen would be a key hole. Dufner birdied the gettable par five, Fowler didn’t. Duf took a one-shot lead and held it until he hit a gem of an approach shot at 17. After ripping it 357 down the middle (where did Duf get that kind of length?), his wedge from 119 stopped just three feet away and he juggled in the birdie to take a two-shot lead into 18.
It was then the winds came up, the rains came lightning showed on radar. The horn sounded for the second time in the round but not before Duf blocked his tee shot into some ugly long rough to the right and Rickie drilled a perfect 349-yard tee shot that carved the fairway in twos.
Sorry guys, got wait it out. They did, a little more than an hour passed.
When they returned at 8:05 p.m., it was just Rickie vs. Jason, down to two. It looked for all intents and purposes like Rickie was staring at birdie and Duf was looking down the barrel of a bogey.
Duf chopped his out in two, was still in the rough. Rickie had a driving range pitching wedge but then made a fatal error, pulling it left into the infamous Nicklaus rough. Sorry Rickie.
Dufner did what he had to do. Hit it 32 feet. Bogey would probably do it.
He was away and went first. No one saw this coming.
It was a 32-footer, smack-dab in the middle. Easy par. Rickie makes bogey, the old Mongolian Reversal in full effect and Dufner walked away with a much-needed victory. For the record, he closed with 68 thanks to four back-nine birdies and got 13-under par.
“I had to get over it quick,” Dufner would later say about his Saturday crash-and-burn.
“I’m pumped to be in the winner’s circle again.”