There are some of us on this planet who believe that things, both good and bad, happen for a reason.
Divine intervention? Maybe.
And there are those of us who believe things occur, positive and negative, through simple cause and effect.
A philosophical concept. Yes.
So now, consider the case of former Auburn golfer Jason Dufner.
Since graduating from Auburn in 2001, Jason, 35, had been chasing his first PGA tour victory. His brushes with victory piled up with each passing year on the tour.
He was five strokes ahead with four holes to play in the 2011 PGA championship, but lost in a playoff. He led the Masters after the first two rounds this year, but shot back-to-back 75s to finish 24th.
Almost every year in each of his seven full seasons on the PGA tour, Dufner had at least one tournament and sometimes a couple in which he was primed to win if he could close out with a solid final 18 holes.
But every time he didn’t win, like this year’s collapse at The Masters, he knew the questions would be coming. The same question over and over again, rephrased.
Jason, can you explain what happened in the final round? Why can’t you shut the door on everyone chasing you and win?
To Jason’s credit, he always understood he merited the media inquisition.
“When you're leading tournaments going into weekends and you're finishing 24th there's going to be some questions,” Jason says.
The only question that Jason has to answer this weekend is, “Jason Dufner, do you take Amanda to be your wife?”
This is where divine intervention makes an appearance.
Last Sunday in New Orleans in the Zurich Classic, Jason, who led by two strokes heading into the final round, finally got his PGA tour victory in the 164th tour event of his career. He won on the second playoff hole, tapping in a short birdie putt to beat veteran Ernie Els.
That’s right. Jason got his first victory the weekend before he gets married, which is this Saturday to longtime girlfriend Amanda Boyd.
He won a first-place check of $1,152,000, which will by a lot of wedding cake.
In his typical stoic fashion, Jason said of the hefty payday, “It helps with paying for the wedding, obviously. They're a little more expensive than I thought or had imagined.”
If Jason had any “whoo-hoo, I finally did it moments,” he kept them in private. But it’s a good bet the strongest feeling he had was the most obvious thing he said after winning.
“It takes a lot of pressure off,” he said, hopefully with an exhale.
For anyone who has known Jason, especially at Auburn where he dropped into the lap of then-Tigers’ golf coach Mike Griffin, they can attest to the fact he’s terribly understated.
Griffin, now school’s director of golf. laughs when he recounts how Jason, who developed into an All-SEC golfer who played four times in NCAA regionals or nationals, practically appeared from thin air at Auburn.
Jason, who graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wasn't even an invited walk-on for the Tigers. He had to sign up to play in a walk-on qualifying tournament for an Auburn roster spot.
Jason made the team, yet Griffin had no idea about Jason's talent until they played together by chance during an Auburn fundraiser halfway through Jason's first semester on campus.
"On that day, I started sticking out my chest thinking I was the greatest recruiter the world had ever seen," Griffin said. "Jason hit every clutch shot."
Griffin, put Jason on scholarship as soon as possible, then he got closemouthed Jason to come to his office to learn out more about him.
"Duff, how come I've never knew who you were, son?" Griffin said.
"Coach, I wrote you a letter," Jason replied.
"You did?" Griffin exclaimed.
Griffin turned to a corner pile of more than 400 letters, and he dug out Jason's missive.
"There was nothing spectacular about ol' Jason Dufner's letter at all," Griffin recalls. "There was nothing on that bio that said, 'I'm going to be a PGA tour player one day.' "
Griffin quickly learned that Jason was his own man. For instance, Jason would rarely go hit balls with teammates.
"He has his own way of doing things," Griffin says. "Sometimes, I had to figure him out myself. Duff would work really, really hard, but he didn't want anyone to know he was working hard. He'd go off in an isolated area and hit golf balls for two or three hours."
Jason explains the reason for his lone wolf mentality.
"I grew up as an only child in a single-parent family and it made me kind of a loner, you might say," Jason says. "I was used to being by myself, I liked that environment. That's the system I like."
Griffin also saw something that has obviously served Jason well as he’s battled on through the years improving his game and getting closer to that elusive first PGA tour win.
"The one thing I noticed about Duff that set him apart from others was his ability to forget about anything bad that happened to him," Griffin says. "He forgets the bad stuff quicker than anybody I've ever been around. I've had a lot of players more talented than him, but they don't possess that ability. That's why he has been successful and some of them have not."
An example of Jason’s short-term memory came last year after his monumental collapse with four holes to play in the PGA championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. He drove back to Auburn from Augusta with Amanda and his agent Ben Walter, and Amanda was dreading the 2½-hour drive.
“I was braced for a tough ride, but it wasn’t bad,” Amanda told Golfweek. “We went to Krystal, got a bunch of cheeseburgers and it was fine.”
Living in Auburn and not in a Florida or Arizona or California golf community has also given Jason a solid support system.
A day after his PGA collapse, some of Auburn’s football coaches who knew Jason called him and asked if he could meet them in one of the auditoriums at the football complex.
“So when I walked in, the whole team was there and they gave me a standing ovation,” Jason recalls. “You wouldn’t have expected 320-pound linemen to be watching golf on Sunday and know who I was, but they did. It was pretty cool.”
Besides his mental toughness – he started playing golf and dropped playing baseball because the burden of success or failure in golf is placed on an individual – Jason’s Auburn degree in economics fuels an analytical side of him few people rarely see.
But it especially comes into play when Jason starts talking about the intracacies of matching his swing to the precise type of shaft, club loft and even ball to the lie he may have on a particularly shot.
Maybe if it would something he might not think about if he was 6-3, 180 pounds like recent Masters’ winner Bubba Watson. Or a sturdy 6-1, 185 pounds such as Tiger Woods.
But Jason is 5-10, 180. His average distance off the tee is 288.7 yards, ranking him 64th on the tour. He has to squeeze every yard he can out of his swing, which is why he’s big into making sure he fits his equipment like a glove.
“I’ve got to maximize my equipment so I can maximize my golf,” Jason says. “That’s why I study the geometry and physics of golf.”
Jason won’t be thinking about golf physics this weekend. He’ll be concentrating not tripping over Amanda’s wedding dress walking down the aisle on Saturday in Auburn.
“She really understands this golf thing,” Jason says.
Obviously. Their honeymoon is going to be at The Players Championship in Jacksonville next week.
“Hey, they got an island green,” Jason says.
Since Jason just collected that $1.15 million check, I imagine Amanda can pretend the TPC Sawgrass sandtraps are a Jamaican beach.