Maybe Jason Dufner started to lose his composure, which was hated on Twitter, after hitting a drive in the water on the 15th hole Sunday at the PGA Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, but he would’ve regained it when he escaped with only a bogey.
Little did anyone know, that bogey would be the first of many on a terrible final four holes at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
After hitting the ball in the water minutes after he had watched Keegan Bradley hit it in the water in the group before him. Bradley virtually eliminated himself with a double bogey on the 15th. Long before Dufner splashed, I made this text to my brother:
“I’m still waiting for dufner to make a mistake…”
He responded: “Tough stretch of holes upcoming so we will see”
He’s so smart. A golfer in his youth and all through high school, where his team won multiple State titles while he was on the team. That’s my brother. He predicted the future.
I was frustrated by then. I thought, “This guy is not Adam Scott! He can’t play a perfect round. He has to make a mistake at some point.”
He did on the 15th.
While Bradley made a mistake hitting his second shot in the water, over the green – a much bigger mistake than Dufner’s drive into the water because of where each player was shooting from – he might have regained some momentum when he turned around on the 16th and saw Dufner chunk it into the water.
As many would say: “Maybe he really is human.”
Then, Bradley did the improbably. A birdie on 16, a birdie on 17, and nearly a birdie-winner on 18, and he was right back in the tournament.
In the midst of all of this, Keegan Bradley took a page from Tiger Wood’s old school book of intimidation (as I get to the point of this story’s headline). He started fist pumping.
When Bradley birdied 16, one announcers comments gained my attention.
“That’s how you create a comeback! You know Jason Dufner was watching that, you know he felt the roar of the crowd,” the CBS announcer said. The comment was in direct relation to Bradley’s mid-distance putt for birdie and his following fist pump straight out of Tiger’s book of intimidating tricks.
Then again on 17, Bradley made an even longer putt for another birdie to get to 8-under (-8). This fist pump was even bigger and more animated… So animated that my girlfriend Tweeted about it.
“Slow-mo the fist pump oh yeahhh Keegan Bradley,” she Tweeted.
By this time, even my girlfriend was into the drama that was playing out, as so evident in the prior Tweet.
The script played out, and Bradley ended up beating Dufner by two strokes in a three-hole playoff, winning his first major championship and becoming the first player to win his first major in his first major appearance.
As he lifted that trophy, I knew he had taken a page out of Tiger’s book on how he intimidated opponents in the past. He had gotten some major mojo on those last three holes and Jason Dufner got to be on the tee or in the fairway to watch all of it.
Even on the first playoff hole, Dufner nearly holed his second shot. Dufner did a slight fist pump (his first sign of any emotion the whole round). Then, his hopes got dashed because Bradley hit an even better shot and did a fist pump of his own much more emotional and animated than Dufner.
Bradley was the tougher man of the two. He was the more emotional man. He was the better golfer. He had more momentum. He had more belief. He had more fans. He had the happy ending in this motion picture.
He took it upon himself to intimidate Dufner and it worked. After a double bogey on 15, this was his last chance. He made it count.
In Tiger’s hayday he could flat out just intimidate his closest opponent and leave him in the dust. On Sunday, Keegan Bradley did a whole lot of that too.
But unlike Tiger, Bradley was not the odds on favorite to win when he started to intimidate Dufner. Bradley both intimidated Dufner and motivated himself by showing such excitement. He got the crowd behind him, and they stayed behind him.
He took what Tiger has always done and added to it – coming from far behind to win a major championship.
You can say Dufner self distructed, but you can’t deny the fact that Bradley had a hand in that self distruction. Tiger showed us that golfers can be intimidated by their own opponents. So you have to believe it’s true.
Bradley intimidated Dufner. He won the staring contest. He won the arm wrestling match. He won the major.
In the fashion he did, his moment Sunday will be one that me and many others will remember for a long time. And in the end, I also won.
Sunday morning, my brother asked me who I thought would win.
“I say Keegan wins,” I told him.
He picked: Steve Stricker.
Winner winner chicken dinner. Bradley and I both.