What is Jason Dufner’s problem?
I’ve covered only golf in my career, but according to many of the older writers who have chronicled other sports, professional golfers are the best athletes to cover.
Any sport has its difficult personalities, but the vast majority of professional golfers understand that they are fortunate to be on the PGA Tour, and they act accordingly. They are the best of the best, playing for millions of dollars each week and with the opportunity to earn in one year what most people would earn in a lifetime.
Those benefits certainly are well deserved. The trials and tribulations of competing on golf’s biggest stage can be perilous, but in the end only the golfer is to blame.
Sergio Garcia, winner of the recent Masters, needed to learn that painful lesson in nearly two decades as a pro before he ultimately could succeed at Augusta National. Many more golfers have had to look into the mirror to face the issues holding them back.
Which leads us to Dufner.
Dufner, now 40, was a bit of a late bloomer in golf. At age 35, he won for the first time at the 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans and followed that victory three weeks later by winning at the HP Byron Nelson. One year later, he won the PGA Championship. In those two seasons, he earned more than $8 million. During that stretch, in May 2012, he also married the former Amanda Boyd.
Dufner and his wife were a celebrity couple, making the rounds at big sporting events. In 2013, Dufner became an Internet sensation when he was photographed slouching against a wall during a charity event at a Dallas elementary school, and the “Dufnering” craze was born.
Like most fads, Dufnering became short-lived. So, too, did his marriage, which ended in divorce in 2015. His game soured, and he finished 101st in earnings in 2015.
Since the breakup, Dufner has done his best to shun the media, perhaps blaming us for his troubles. He’s among the very small minority of prickly players.
Dufner instead walks the fairways every week as if someone were drawing blood from his veins, lifeless and without purpose.
That’s his prerogative, but most players understand that professional golf is entertainment, so they do what they can to provide fans with excitement and enjoyment.
Dufner? Well, look at what he did Sunday at the RBC Heritage.
Starting the final round with a one-shot lead, Dufner struggled. After missing a 7-foot par putt on the par-5 sixth hole – which he had eagled a day earlier – he tapped in the 2-foot bogey putt, dropped his putter onto the green and walked away, leaving caddie Kevin Baile to clean up the mess.
Twitter respondents called Dufner’s behavior disgusting.
I’d go further and say it’s despicable.
Golf is a game of honor and integrity. Dufner’s actions were the opposite of those characteristics.
Graham DeLaet, looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour, had the misfortune of being Dufner’s playing competitor and also was having a bad day. DeLaet didn’t display the childish emotions of Dufner.
In the end, Dufner staggered to a 5-over 76 and a tie for 11th, with earnings of $114,045. That’s the amount that commissioner Jay Monahan should fine the dolt for his actions.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli