Jason Dufner–a former walk-on at Auburn University who owns the loosest, most distinctive waggle in pro golf–won the PGA Championship yesterday, finishing at 10 under par. Tour stalwart Jim Furyk, the 2003 PGA Champion, was second at nine-under. Dufner will be able to put the economics degree he earned as a Razorback to work: first place prize money is $1,445,000.
In a sport defined by stress–where a three-foot putt can cost $40,000 and a mishit driver can divert a career–Dufner has become a sort of poster boy for relaxation. Where Tiger Woods (Dufner’s near contemporary) grimaces and grinds through every round, an archetype of angst and exertion, Dufner’s face changes about as often as Lincoln’s on the memorial. This stoicism is also presumably what brought Dufner through the competitive fires. Having achieved tour status in 2004, Dufner quickly relinquished his card. He continued to play on the minor-league tour, rising up again for the 2007 season before surrendering his card once more. He has held PGA Tour playing status consistently only since 2009, the year after Woods won his last major championship. It’s not as if Dufner comes out of nowhere: he’s won twice before with dozens of top ten finishes. And the journeyman business in golf, unlike in some other professions, can be pretty lucrative–his career earnings top $13 million. But majors are supposed to be a different story, belonging to the fierce and ferocious. So it’s a big win for the characteristically quiet advocates of mellow. You just don’t see mellow getting ahead too often in our crowded, competitive world. And for the moment–some will say that’s all there is–it’s right to say Dufner abides.