Win is early wedding present for Dufner

Win is early wedding present for Dufner
By Reuters

30/04/2012 at 11:54Updated 30/04/2012 at 11:58

American Jason Dufner gave himself a well-timed early wedding gift by clinching his first PGA Tour title in a playoff with Ernie Els at the New Orleans Classic in Avondale, Louisiana.

Just six days before his marriage to girlfriend Amanda Boyd, Dufner ended a winless run of 163 starts on the U.S. circuit by beating South African Els with a two-putt birdie on the second extra hole.

"It's a great way to start the week for Amanda and me," the 35-year-old Dufner told reporters after sealing victory with a one-footer on the 18th green at the TPC Louisiana.

"It's a great wedding present for both of us, helps with paying for the wedding, obviously. They're a little bit more expensive than I thought or had imagined," he added with a grin.

Dufner, who twice lost out in playoffs on the PGA Tour last season, was delighted to fend off Els after they had finished the regulation holes deadlocked at 19-under-par 269.

"It's always really tough playing on Sundays, whether you're in the lead or the middle of the pack," said the laid-back American with the distinctive pre-shot waggle.

"Today I was fighting, trying to win an event and I think I showed myself a good bit out there. It was tough.

"Obviously I haven't had a great history in playoffs last year and it kind of goes through your mind: 'I'm in another playoff, am I going to be able to get this done?'"

Asked to put into words what his breakthrough victory meant to him, Dufner replied: "Your mind is in a lot of different places right now when you win your first Tour event.

"It's hard for me to get a handle on all of it. I'm really, really excited and to get the monkey off my back is a great feeling."

Dufner became the third first-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, following Kyle Stanley at the Phoenix Open and John Huh at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

He was quite certain, though, that the pressure of that one-foot putt on the second extra hole had made him more nervous than he was likely to feel when taking his wedding vows on Saturday.

"Amanda and I have been living together for about three years now, we're pretty comfortable with each other," Dufner said.

"There's not too many surprises going on with our relationship. I'm very lucky to have her. She's very supportive and been 100 percent behind me from day one with this golf thing.

"So, you know, I don't have many questions or doubts about that part of my life. That's for sure. One-foot putts, sometimes," Dufner added with a broad grin.

Els, meanwhile, was happy to savour the positives after ending a bitter-sweet week with a playoff defeat.

In pursuit of his first PGA Tour title in two years, Els lost after narrowly missing a six-foot birdie putt for victory.

However, the smooth-swinging South African was delighted to challenge for the title, having started the final round two shots off the pace before closing with a flawless five-under-par 67.

"I came close, so it's disappointing but good," three-times major winner Els told reporters after being trumped by Dufner's two-putt birdie at the par-five 18th, the second extra hole. "I did play well.

"I made some putts. I missed the one in the playoff but made a lot of putts on the back nine to keep myself in it. It was a nice little charge I made and nice to catch the leader.

"You know, to play 72 holes, four days of golf and have a putt to win, that's a negative and a positive. It's just one of those things. I just came up short."

Bidding for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Els briefly vaulted into a two-shot lead after eagling the par-five seventh to get to 18-under.

"I was trying to get to the leader and making birdies and eagles helps," Els smiled. "But we were trying to get to 20-under at the start of the day. To catch the leader by the seventh hole, you've still got a lot of golf to play."

Els, an 18-times champion on the PGA Tour, had a golden opportunity to seal victory on the first playoff hole, also the 18th, but pushed his putt past the right edge of the cup.

Dufner, moments earlier, had narrowly missed his attempt there from seven feet.

"I didn't hit a great putt," Els reflected. "I tried to jam it in there and kind of pushed it a little bit. It's a disappointment especially when you have a putt to win the tournament.

"I can work on it but at least I'm doing good things."

Els, a former world number one, paid tribute to the laid-back and almost unemotional Dufner who finally won his first PGA Tour title on his 164th start.

"I don't know how long he can keep it up, that wall, but he's doing a good job so far," the South African, nicknamed the 'Big Easy' because of his own relaxed demeanour, grinned.

"Kind of reminds me of myself back in the day. He's got a wonderful golf swing and I think this will help him a lot. I think he'll win quite a few others.

"If he keeps that shield up, that's a pretty good defensive mechanism he's got there."