DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Jason Dufner has won this year's PGA championship. The 36-year-old is known for, shall we say, his nonchalance, but he managed a double fist pump after clenching the victory. There are a few more tournaments left this year but this was the last major. And NPR's Mike Pesca is with us to talk about the year in golf. Hey, Mike.
MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: Hello.
GREENE: So let's start with this weekend's tournament. How did Jason Dufner pull this off?
PESCA: Dufner. Dufner, you know, no golf tournament is won on one stroke or even a series of strokes, but - so if the question is when did he take the lead for good, he entered Sunday trailing Jim Furyk. Now, you would think leading going into the last day of play would be a good place to be but no major this year has been won by a guy who was leading after 54 holes and Dufner had a brilliant front nine. And by the eighth hole he had pulled ahead for good.
You want to go back to Friday where he shot a 63. It was the lowest round ever in a major - tied for the lowest round ever in a major. And so that really put him in a great position. And it is amazing. I mean, you made this mention to nonchalance.
PESCA: So here was Jason Dufner who's known for these two great things beforehand - one is just totally blowing the 2011 PGA championship. He had a four stroke lead with four holes to go. But the other one was this picture that was taken of him. He was at an elementary school in the Dallas Ft. Worth area, just kind of slumped in a corner. He was not really responding to the teacher's lesson.
He kind of looked like if you had a life-sized Jason Dufner dummy and you kind of propped it in the corner, that's what it would look like. And it led to the trend of Dufnering - people adopting this pose and taking pictures of it. So now he's known for winning a PGA championship; it's a little bit better.
GREENE: Better than being known for being in a classroom and slumping over all the kids and not listening to the teacher, I guess.
PESCA: Yeah. Slack-jawed, glassy eyed.
GREENE: Dufnering. Well, maybe Dufnering will now be referring to winning a championship.
GREENE: Well, you mentioned that no one has won a major tournament leading - while leading going into the final day. Why is it so hard to have a lead and keep it?
PESCA: Well, one thing is math. I mean, a golf tournament might be won with a score of, you know, 278 and you might have another guy with 279 and 280, so we're talking about less than one percent difference. And if I took a snapshot of anything where there was a big field where there was going to be less than one percent difference between the winners and I gave you the snapshot three-quarters of the way through, it might be that predictive of who's going to win.
So that's one thing. But the other thing is there's such a big mental aspect to golf and it just weighs on these players. And you can see it in their shots. And so that pressure of, you know, spending the whole day going into Sunday, I think it really does get to some guys. It might be better to be a little bit off the lead and have momentum.
GREENE: They talk about team sports, the pressure of having the lead, but this is an individual sport where the pressure's even greater on you, probably.
PESCA: And it's an individual sport where you don't play someone else. So in tennis the other guy has pressure on him too. The golf course itself never has pressure. So, yeah, it gets to you in golf.
GREENE: OK. Let me ask you about Tiger Woods. I mean, it's - Tiger has 14 major tournament wins. It once seemed like it was a foregone conclusion that he would pass Jack Nicklaus, you know, with a record of 18 majors and go past that. How does that look now? Is that still possible for Tiger?
PESCA: Yeah, it is possible. I don't know the answer. And you're right - five years ago the answer was yeah, look at this trend. Of course he's going to do it. But if you were to ask me, you know, who's been the best golfer this year, the answer is Tiger Woods. It might not seem this way because he hasn't won a major, but he won five tournaments.
The next closet golfer - two other golfers - won two tournaments this year. And sometimes he just shows the dominance the strokes and, you know, we talked about Dufner's 63. Tiger's shot a 61 a couple days ago at the Bridgestone - I mean a couple weeks ago. So Tiger still has it. He hasn't been able to put it all together on a big Sunday for one of these majors.
Makes the casual golf fan think that Tiger has lost it. He's not as good as he once was, but I think he's still the best golfer in the world.
GREENE: All right, Mike. No Dufnering today, OK?
PESCA: Try not to.
GREENE: That's NPR's Mike Pesca. Thanks, Mike.
PESCA: You're welcome.
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