The leaders usually play a conservative brand of golf, somewhat paralysed by the enormity of the occasion while the chasing pack throw caution to the wind and blitz what is usually a very difficult course. With the leaders starting last, they have to endure the drama unfolding in front of them, trying to stay focussed on their own game. Some players don’t watch the leaderboards, others do, but all of the caddies are fully aware of the scoring and who’s doing what. When the likes of Tiger, Mickelson and McIlroy charge they have the capacity to intimidate, but nothing intimidates more than the opportunity to win your first major championship.
On Sunday, the birdies came thick and fast and from an Irish point of view Graeme McDowell’s closing 66 for a two under par total, represented a very solid performance but unfortunately it was little more than a prelude to the final act.
McIlroy’s early challenge fizzled out just as quickly when he triple bogeyed the fifth, but his USPGA performance marked a dramatic improvement in attitude and form. As building blocks go, McIlroy’s game looked close to being very good. He was accurate, aggressive and his distance control was superb. However, his short game let him down but that was probably because he hasn’t been in a competitive position for so long. That said he oozed class and if McIlroy now takes the positives away from last week and continues to work hard on his game he may well find himself back in the winner’s enclosure before the year’s end. Shane Lowry, too had a good tournament. He is currently short on experience when it comes to major championships, but he is warming to the task. The key now is for him to continue climbing that ladder.
For the laid back, almost comatose Jason Dufner, Sunday’s final round offered him a shot at redemption having lost out in a play-off to fellow American Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club where he led by five strokes with just four holes remaining. Would he have learned from his mistakes? Would he be able to overcome a stellar field all chasing the last major of the year? In the end we need not have worried, such was the manner of his commanding performance.
Dufner’s determination counted on Sunday no doubt, but what really impressed me about him was the way he stuck to his game plan, all the time playing to his strengths. To execute the perfect game plan, it would require confidence and no shortage of mental strength. Dufner’s swing is technically sound and when push came to shove over the final round he never doubted himself or his ability. Dufner needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over to secure the title. He needed to apply his own pressure to those around him. By making the turn in three under he put distance between himself and the rest of the field. His accuracy off the tee box gave him a decided edge over his closest rival and playing partner Jim Furyk. All day he used this advantage to great effect because it afforded him the opportunity to control his shots to the greens. When out of his position he invariably took the right option but it was the accuracy and control of his wedge play in particular which won him his first major title.
So, once again the USPGA has given us a first time major winner in Jason Dufner, but one feels that this one may not be his last. Behind the unflappable demeanour, there is a tough and competent competitor. His game is more akin to Zach Johnson than Mickelson or Woods in that he is very much a shot maker, someone who relies on a game plan based on precision. He may not have McIlroy’s flair but golf’s latest major champion has now proven to himself and everyone else that he can get the job done. With confidence one feels that he may just become even more dangerous.
Lee Westwood has apologised following Twitter outbursts in which he rounded on trolls who criticised his performance in the final round of the US PGA Championship.
The 40-year-old carded a six-over par 76, leaving him 13 shots behind winner Jason Dufner and still without a Major success.
He did not seem in the mood to take any criticism of his display and career on the social media site however, and when asked by one user to “learn how to putt”, he responded from his verified @WestwoodLee Twitter account by saying: “Will you get a life first”.
Further tweets from the account included: “You minions need to live from the inside out rather than the outside in!!!!”, “Just sick of negative a******** sat behind a keyboard with a pitiful life mate !thats all!” and “Like I give a F*** what the haters say! That’s life ! Some people will always be just a little bit better and work just a little bit harder.”
However, Westwood yesterday moved to calm the waters following his outburst, posting a message on Twitter. He said: “Sincere apologies to my sponsors and true followers for my earlier comments. It was out of order and out of character.”