Monday, August 15, 2011

Dufner In Defeat

Golfing great Bobby Jones once said, "Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course...the space between your ears.” Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the game gives us terrific examples athletes putting losses and setbacks in perspective.
Just yesterday, Jason Dufner blew a three-stroke lead with three straight bogeys before losing in a playoff to rookie phenom Keegan Bradley, leading golf writer Dan Jenkins to compare him to Jean Van de Veld and Ed Sneed. (Dufner's collapse is far more Sneed than Van de Veld as Dufner didn't shoot a seven on any holes.)
But while critics are busy figuring out just how awful Dufner's final three regulation holes were, the athlete himself, as well as his fiancé, Amanda Boyd, kept things in perspective, as Bob Harig notes in this article.
Boyd notes that the runner-up finish ensures more career security for Dufner.
"He's just happy to be here, really. Now he has next year. He's always worried about keeping his card and having next year locked up. He's got his schedule set for next year. He's got a lot of pressure taken off him. Maybe he'll win one of the playoff events. You never know."
Meanwhile Dufner, who, according to Harig, didn't start playing golf till age 15, reflected on his genuine love of the game and his desire to play it to the best of his ability.
Dufner isn't the first athlete this year to keep things in perspective. Then-21 year old Rory McIlroy made many fans with his interview after falling apart in the back nine of the Masters on Sunday. McIlroy emphasized focusing on the positives and learning from the experience. When McIlroy destroyed the U.S. Open later this year, the entire sports world, including his competitors, celebrated with him.
Only time will tell if Dufner will again flirt with a major title and if he'll hold on for the victory next time. But critics should keep in mind that Dufner did what was most important: ensuring financial security for his family, competing hard, and demonstrating sportsmanship. If he can remember all this in his moment of defeat, shouldn't we be able to notice as much when observing from a safe distance?

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