Ryder Cup star Dufner now a major champion
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Jason Dufner tips his cap to the crowd after winning his first major, capturing the PGA Championship by 2 strokes over Jim Furyk.
Standing on the 18th green after Europe's "Miracle at Medinah" in last fall's Ryder Cup, Justin Rose shivered in the dusk as he spoke about his team's stunning victory.
Asked if it was the chill in the air or his nerves, Rose responded, "Is it cold?"
That's how big the moment was for Rose when he made a bomb on 17 that essentially beat Phil Mickelson and saved the Ryder Cup for Europe.
"I was shaking on 18 before I made my (last) putt. I've never felt that before," Rose said that night. "It's so much bigger than you and it transcends golf and that's why it's such a monumental thing when you lose.
"As bad as it sounds, you learn to lose in golf. I mean, you play 25 tournaments a year and you might win one, so you lose a lot. But when you lose here, you lose for your team and a continent. You feel that weight on every shot."
Martin Kaymer, who made the winning putt, said pretty much the same thing. As did Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Jason Dufner.
Two years ago at the PGA Championship in Atlanta, Dufner put it in the water on 15 on Sunday and blew a 5-shot lead before losing in a playoff to close friend Keegan Bradley. He said that was nothing compared to what he felt at Medinah.
"Friday was fun playing team (golf) with Zach (Johnson), but by today (Sunday) the pressure was unreal," Dufner said after the Ryder Cup. "It was bigger than Atlanta, bigger than anything I've felt before.
"I don't think I've ever felt anything like the first tee in Sunday singles. After this, I don't think anything will feel as big."
Kaymer, Rose and Dufner made their putts on Sunday at the Ryder Cup, while Furyk and Stricker did not, and after succeeding under those circumstances, and watching older players go to pieces, I thought majors could be in the immediate futures of Kaymer, Rose and Dufner.
With the season's final major Sunday at Oak Hill going to the unflappable Dufner, two of those three cashed in this season on their Ryder Cup experience. Rose and Dufner won their first majors, while Kaymer -- who the PGA in 2010 -- is still battling his way back after a swing change a couple of years ago.
Furyk, a major winner who could not handle short putts at Medinah, took a 1-shot lead into Sunday, but it was Dufner who played the final round in 2-under, and Furyk (1-over) never really threatened after falling behind on the front and lost by a pair.
Fittingly, Bradley was on his way to the airport after finishing early Sunday but returned to the course to greet his pal with a big hug as he came off the 18th green, running a red light to make sure he was there just in time to see Dufner capture the Wanamaker Trophy.
So you think back now to the failure of the U.S. at Medinah, but also to those who found success under extraordinary stress. The only singles victories on Sunday came from Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Dufner, who was the lone U.S. player to win the 18th hole.
Dufner finished with 3 points, tied for the team lead with Bradley, Mickelson and the Johnsons. Players like Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar -- who is second to Tiger Woods in FedEx Cup points -- showed no fear and seemed to thrive on the pressure of the biggest event in golf.
U.S. players in their first or second appearance on the team went 16-9, suggesting the future is sunny for Team USA and bright in general for the PGA Tour, which brings the BMW Championship back to Chicago at Conway Farms a month from now.
For Dufner, returning to this area will serve only to bring back memories of the tournament that changed his life, the Ryder Cup that cemented in his mind the ability to handle a big moment.
And when he's announced on the first tee, he'll also be reminded that he is the reigning PGA champion, and forever a major championship winner.
Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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