Ryder Cup memories: Jason Dufner and the 'Miracle of Medinah'
In the collective wailing that followed the American collapse at the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ four years ago, what was forgotten was that some members of Davis Love III’s side thrived.
One of those who loved the pressure cooker atmosphere in Chicago was Jason Dufner.
The 2013 PGA Champion may have a deadpan expression at all times but the biennial tournament brought out rare moments of emotion – fist pumping as he made key shots during a serene first two days of action.
Dufner’s partnership with Zach Johnson was a foursomes masterclass, the steady-eddy duo taking down Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari 3&2 on the first morning and Nicolas Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia 2&1 on Saturday.
Only a run of five birdies in a row from Ian Poulter, in that unforgettable fourball clash on the Saturday afternoon, spoiled a record that would bring up a third point with singles success over Peter Hanson.
What was it like to be a part of that Ryder Cup? As the European team prepare to return to American soil, we caught up with one of the stars of that ill-fated Medinah mission in 2012…
What was the atmosphere like at Medinah? It seemed like such an incredible occasion to be a part of…
The Ryder Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, I think. It’s a big deal. There’s the Super Bowl and the World Series but the Ryder Cup seems to be up there so it is always great to be part of those teams and get to enjoy those moments.
You’re a pretty laid back guy. What was it like on the first tee when you were up against Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari?
It was good. I think the team part is a little bit easier. You have a partner so I was confident that Zach and I could go out and play good enough to be in the match and have a chance of getting a point.
There is a little bit less pressure, I think, in the team format then when it gets to the singles. When it is on you, it becomes a little bit tougher.
Was it relief when you won that first game?
It’s just getting a point – that’s what you want to do. You get to be an individual a lot out here in this sport so, when you actually get to be part of a team, you want to contribute and get as many points as you can.
Your record that week was outstanding. You beat Garcia and Colsaerts as well…
Me and Zach had a good partnership. We did well and also at the Presidents Cup the following year.
What is it about his game you like and how do you complement each other?
We play a similar style of game. We are really good in alternate shot (foursomes) because we’re comfortable playing from where we do.
It’s familiar to us. Zach’s a little bit stronger with his putter, which helps me a little bit. I can hit some iron shots in that format and have the confidence that we’re going to walk away with a birdie instead of a par.
His wedge game is unbelievable as well…
His wedge game is good. We’ve had some success in the team format and I think it’s a good partnership.
You were involved in that now infamous McIlroy/Poulter game on Saturday afternoon at Medinah. What was it like watching Poulter do that?
It was a great match. We seemed to be hitting it close and he seemed to be countering that with some putts. I was sure that we would get at least half a point but it turned out a little different.
There was the curling putt on the last…
In the dark, yeah.
When something like that happens, do you just chalk it off as one of those amazing things that happens in golf?
As golfers, we are pretty good at chalking a lot of things off. We don’t have the best of results out there week in and week out and only one guy can win and only one team can win that match. We are pretty resilient as athletes go. When that happened, we had another day to go and tried to get some more points.
You beat Peter Hanson in the singles. Outside of the USA not winning, it was a pretty special week for you.
Yeah, I had a nice week. I enjoy the Ryder Cup. I loved playing in it. I loved the format. In match play, to be honest with you, I feel like there is less pressure because you don’t have to go and post a score. You just play hole by hole. If you make an 8 on the hole before you can win the next hole and still win the match.
This time the USA are looking like a very strong team…
A lot of young guys are starting to play well. You are seeing Jordan (Spieth) and Brooks Koepka and Dustin starting to play really well. It’s kind of a new team for us. There will be some guys going for the second time – like Jordan and Patrick Reed – and hopefully it will be competitive again.
Jason Dufner was speaking at the Berenberg Gary Player Invitational at Wentworth