Aug. 12, 2013
Jason Dufner cradles the Wanamaker Trophy after returning home from the PGA Championship (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Shortly after 11 on a muggy Sunday night, Jason Dufner stepped down from the private jet that had brought him home to the Auburn University Regional Airport. Wearing an Auburn warmup suit, he carried the famed Wanamaker Trophy that goes to the PGA Championship winner.
Dufner, a former Auburn All-American and an Auburn resident, had won his first major championship less than six hours earlier at Oak Hill County Club in Rochester, N.Y. And now he was back, his wife Amanda at his side.
A crowd of some 30 reporters and well-wishers greeted him.
"The neat thing about it is you dream about doing things like this when you are a kid," Dufner said. "To actually accomplish your goals is a crazy thing. I've dreamt about holding this trophy for a long time. I never really thought I'd be able to do it, but now I can."
Dufner, trailing by one shot entering Sunday's final round, shot a 2-under 68 to win by two shots over Jim Furyk. At Auburn's Fan Day, cheers rang out at Auburn Arena as Dufner closed in on the championship. Head football coach Gus Malzahn watched on a large TV as he signed autographs. Some Auburn fans rolled Toomer's Corner.
"The Auburn Family is really strong," Dufner said. "This win is for all the people in Auburn, all the Auburn fans out there. It gives them something to be excited about."
Dufner led by as many as three shots early in the round, fell behind by one and then took a two-shot lead at the turn with three birdies on the front nine. He put himself in commanding position with another birdie at 16. Both he and Furyk bogeyed the final two holes.
It wasn't until Furyk's bogey on 18 that Dufner knew he was going to win.
"I really didn't think I had it until Jim made bogey on that last hole," Dufner said. "I knew then I could three-putt and still win."
The first putt stopped inches short of the hole. Dufner tapped in, and it was over.
"It's neat to think about what's happened," Dufner said. "I'm starting to kind of get it. My name is on this trophy with a lot of unbelievable players. Nobody can ever take that away from me."
Two years ago, Dufner was in a very different place. Up by five shots after he played the 14th hole in Atlanta, he lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley. Dufner said an unhappy Sunday in Atlanta was a blessing.
"If I didn't go through those things, I don't know if I'd be here today," Dufner said. "Those things make you tougher and stronger, more determined to get to the top. I think that was key for me to be able to get this trophy today."
Thompson and Dufner have become close friends since that day. Thompson was on his way to the airport Sunday but returned to be there to congratulate Dufner.
"It shows his character," Dufner said. "We'll always be tied together in a couple of ways - with the playoff in Atlanta and now we have both won the PGA."
The Dufners brought a little of Oak Hill back home with them. During the second round, when his 63 tied the all-time low score in a major championship, he and Amanda began picking up acorns. The plan was to plant them on the 50-acre site where they are building a new home.
Dufner was asked if he'd like to see them used to plant new oak trees at Toomer's Corner.
"That would be nice if they are up to it," Dufner said. "I think that would be pretty cool, but that's probably selfish on my part."
With the 27-pound trophy in hand, Dufner posed for pictures and signed autographs. The trophy, he said, will occupy an honored place in his house.
"We'll find a good place for it," Dufner said, "and we'll keep it polished."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: