If not a first Colonial trophy in tow, Jason Dufner was still lugging around a vivacious, albeit dry, wit in the aftermath of his second close call at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, this one a sudden-death playoff loss pitting major winners.
“He’s a great player, obviously ... No. 1 in the world,” Dufner said of new Colonial champion Adam Scott, who has become an international heartthrob for some. “It’s tough to beat him. “It’s [also] tough to concentrate … he’s so good looking.”
It wasn’t the good looks that beat Dufner on Sunday. Rather, it was Scott’s clutch 14-foot, 3-inch birdie putt on the second extra hole at 17 and his dagger, otherwise known as a pitching wedge, he used to set up his 7-foot winner on the third hole at 18.
Dufner appeared to enjoy the majority of the support from the cheering herd running between Nos. 17 and 18, and it erupted when their man appeared to give himself the edge, knocking his approach at 17 within 4 feet, 3 inches of the hole.
“He made the birdies,” said Dufner, who missed a putt on the third hole that was similar to the 25-foot birdie he drilled on his last hole of regulation to get into the playoff.
“I thought maybe I could sneak one in there on 17, but he topped me. I’m happy to be playing a little bit better.”
Dufner, 38, left some strokes on the course made famous by his favorite golfer in history, Ben Hogan.
The onetime HP Byron Nelson Championship winner barely missed viable birdie attempts at 12 and 13, but an inopportune case of the yips — a lingering problem he’s had on short putts this season — was most costly.
A 2-foot missed par attempt represented the only bogey in his round, which included five birdies, and prevented him from taking advantage of Scott’s double bogey at 9.
“The short ones, when you miss them, take a lot of energy out of you,” said Dufner, Colonial runner-up to Zach Johnson in 2012. “It’s hard when you miss the short ones, but you have to keep plugging.
“I thought I did a good job of giving myself chances.”
Good chances created by hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation.
Dufner, the reigning champion at the PGA Championship, left Fort Worth with a better outlook in the weeks preceding the U.S. Open. After missing the Masters cut, he followed with two 48th-place finishes, including last week at the Nelson.
Winning here would be a career highlight, too.
It’s been well documented how Dufner, a student of the game, is a Hogan acolyte.
Dufner, whose career, like Hogan, has been one of overcoming adversity, won’t let two disappointments here deter him.
“It means a lot to me to come play this event, the history it has, especially with Mr. Hogan kind of being the co-host, so to speak,” Dufner said.
“I love coming here. I want to win here. I’ll keep coming back.”