Renowned for unflappable persona, American Dufner shrugged off a potentially damaging double-bogey at the par-four fifth and, with barely a change in his facial expression or body language, eked out a one-over-par 71 in Saturday’s third round.
He covered the back nine in a flawless one-under-par 34 on a tricky day for scoring at blustery Oak Hill Country Club, ending the round by sinking a 10-foot par putt at the last to secure second place, one shot behind leader Jim Furyk.
“The golf course played a little bit tougher today than yesterday,” said Dufner, who had fired a sizzling seven-under-par 63 on Friday to seize a one-stroke lead in the season’s final major.
“The wind picked up a little bit, which made club selection difficult. But I hung in there. It could have gone sideways quick there after the fifth hole.
“You have got some difficult holes right there, six and seven are pretty tough. I put it together. I played pretty good on the back nine, had a couple of looks I wish I would have made a better run at.”
Dufner conceded he had been fortunate to par the last, watching nervously as his 10-footer curled around the right edge of the hole before dropping into the cup from the back.
“I was just trying to have dead speed where it would go over the lip, maybe just fall in,” he said. “I definitely thought I missed it as it went by the hole. But gravity kind of took over and it was perfect speed to fall in that back lip.”
Dufner, a double winner on the PGA Tour, will play in the final group at the PGA Championship for a second time in three years.
He lost out in a playoff to fellow American Keegan Bradley in the 2011 edition at Atlanta Athletic Club where he led by five strokes in regulation while playing the fourth-last hole before losing steam.
Asked what he would take from that experience going into Sunday’s final round at Oak Hill, Dufner replied: “Patience. There are a lot of guys that have a chance to win this tomorrow.
“It’s a tough golf course. Guys are going to make bogeys. Guys are going to make birdies. You don’t have to play perfect to win these events. I just think patience is of the utmost importance on a Sunday in a major.
“You’re never really out of it, even if you make a bogey or two in a row, you can always come back and have a chance to win that thing on the back nine.”
Dufner triumphed twice on the 2012 PGA Tour and this year he has become something of a cult figure – largely because of the ‘Dufnering’ craze which went viral on social networking websites in April.
The previous month, he visited a school in the Dallas area to help promote the Byron Nelson Championship and a picture was taken of him apparently nodding off as he lay with his back to a wall, arms by his sides and legs stretched out in front of him.
Since then, multiple versions of ‘Dufnering’ have been posted by golfers, golf fans and the general public on Twitter and other forms of social media.
“Like most things in my life, I don’t take things too seriously,” said Dufner. “But it’s been a good response and I think people have had a kick out of it.”
That unflappable approach certainly helped Dufner on Saturday as he maintained his bid for a first major title by calmly accepting both the good and bad that came his way, and then moving on.
“There were a couple of times today where I was pretty frustrated with things, with the way things were going,” he said. “If you lose your head out there you can lose track. I think it’s important to stay even keel for the most part.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)