ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The text message pinged Jason Dufner's cellphone Saturday night.
"I wished him good luck," Keegan Bradley said. "Duf's a great champion."
Place the emphasis on present tense.
Dufner seized the PGA Championship on Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club, turning back Jim Furyk by dialing in near-perfect accuracy throughout a two-under-par 68. His 10-under score gave him a two-shot victory over Furyk, who carded a 71. Henrik Stenson finished three back.
It's telling that Bradley made the above comment before Sunday's round ended, before Dufner became the fourth golfer in the last five years to claim his first major championship at the PGA.
All you need to know about the popularity of a player who once made "Dufnering" a trending topic on social media is that Bradley is the one who defeated Dufner in a playoff at the PGA Championship two years ago. That's when Dufner lost a four-shot lead with four holes to play.
On Sunday, Bradley even turned around en route to the airport — almost running a red light — and waited to offer his congratulations in person.
Redemption has rarely looked so popular.
"He's a good guy and he's good-hearted about a little ribbing I give him about that day," Bradley said.
Dufner rarely lets emotion show. But he did greet his major moment with a double fist-pump and, uh, a hug for the ages with his wife on the 18th green. As he walked off, Bradley found him.
"We just kind of bro-hugged, which I don't know how that goes over," Dufner cracked. "He just said, 'I'm proud of you.' And I said, 'Thanks a lot. It means a lot for you to be here.'"
Don't mistake Dufner's lack of emotion for a lack of competitiveness. Aggressive all day with his tee shots and approaches, Dufner ran his bogey-free streak to 26 holes before matching Furyk with bogeys on the difficult closing holes at 17 and 18.
Dufner hit it to kick-in distance on No. 5, almost holed out from 120 yards on No. 8 for another birdie and knocked it close for yet another on the par-four 16th.
"I mean, he had tap-in birdies," Furyk said.
After missing four consecutive makable birdie putts on Nos. 10-13, Dufner pointed to his up-and-down at the tricky par-three 15th as his biggest moment. That's one of three times he used a fairway wood to chip from the fringe, a delicate play for someone who began his scoreboard-watching at the turn.
"I come across as a pretty cool customer, I guess," Dufner said. "But there are definitely some nerves out there, especially when you're trying to win a major championship."
The last time Dufner faced that prospect, he crashed and burned, aided by Bradley's spectacular finish at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
"I was probably over what happened in Atlanta, 95% of it, by the time we got back home at Auburn," Dufner said. "But you always carry those scars with you.
"And [Bradley] always jabbed at me a little bit about having one of these [trophies] in his house and thanks for giving it to him and all that stuff. Now I've got one too."
Furyk, the third-round leader by one, played a solid if unspectacular round to keep the 2003 U.S. Open as his lone major victory.
"I have no regrets," Furyk said. "I played my heart out. I played a very, very solid tournament."
Winning majors is no joke. It takes skill, steely-eyed determination and the occasional smile from the golf gods. And, truly, only those who have prevailed in one understand fully what it takes.
Like Bradley, Dufner now knows.
"The friendship with Duf is cool because we're going to have that forever," Bradley said.
That's the same length of time their names will remain engraved on the Wanamaker Trophy.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun