PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- To appreciate what happened when Jason Dufner edged out Ben Hogan on Friday, you probably have to comb back through Wichita, Omaha and the Fort Smith Classic. You might scan through Dufner's cuts at Knoxville and Hershey, and the Lake Erie Charity Classic at Peek 'n Peak Resort.
You might continue to the good finishes at Gila River, Permian Basin and Miccosukee; or the cuts at Henrico County, Boise and Northeast Pennsylvania. Your reading slog might take you to 2006 and the win in Wichita, the top-10's in Boise, Oregon, Miccosukee, the Peek 'n Peak again -- and, of course, the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship. (That one sounds idyllic.)
In fact, it's part of the viewing pleasure of watching Dufner play at 36 years old to ponder his painstaking path through the non-glam tours, through 2001, 2002 and 2003 ... through 2004 after popping up to the PGA Tour and closing with five cuts, a DQ and a nice T-8 at the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro ... and through 2005 and 2006, back in the minors.
It's no wonder that when he almost won the PGA Championship in 2011, having led by five shots with four holes to play before succumbing in that playoff against Keegan Bradley, Dufner said, "I'll be fine with it. You know, coming from where I came from, to be in this position, it's a dream come true. I could never have imagined playing in major championships, playing with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. That's a milestone to me itself."
On Friday at Oak Hill Country Club, where Hogan's 64 had stood unsurpassed since 1942 and equaled only twice in competition (including once on Friday itself with Webb Simpson), that same guy with the long path gave the golf history books a tingle. Sure, he long since had made the U.S. Ryder Cup team and posted four top-fives in the last 15 majors, but it was still that same guy from the Peek 'n Peak and the Fort Smith Classic who posted the 26th-ever 63 in a major.
On a day when the same Mickelson and Woods he'd felt grateful to join on Tour shot 71 and 70, on a rain-softened, toothless course; when Woods, who won the Masters at 21, held down 39th place; when Mickelson, who won as an amateur, held down 50th, that same guy who slogged around in the dreaming minors had a dream of a 12-footer to become the first-ever to shoot a 62.
He gave fellow pros vicarious thrills.
"It was a fun round of golf to watch Jason play," said Steve Stricker, playing alongside.
"I could hear the roar and knew he had a big putt to shoot the lowest score in major championship history. So I was kind of pulling for him, to be honest with you," said Jim Furyk, playing nearby.
"We had three of us on 18 tee, watched Jason hit his approach shot from the fairway," said Matt Kuchar, playing just behind. "Knew he hit it close by the crowd's reaction. As we walked down the fairway, we get a chance to watch his putt, all kind of hoping. And I know, for me, it would have put him an extra shot ahead, but it would have been pretty cool to see a 62 posted as the lowest round ever in a major championship."
"Probably the worst putt I hit of the day, which is a little disappointing," Dufner said.
"It was kind of too bad that he missed it," Kuchar said.
"If I could do it over, I guess I would hit the putt harder," Dufner said.
It curled up short.
Luckily, this Auburn graduate doesn't seem to spend a lot of time hanging out with What and If. He does seem to spend a lot of time reading -- about successful people, about history, and about Hogan, whom he lists as his hero. And now, this toiler -- who finally reached the PGA Tour for good at going-on-30, who didn't take up golf until 15 -- resonates a placid confidence.
"Hopefully, you know, [drying out] won't happen, and I can be aggressive with the driver," he said. "I feel like driver is the best club in my bag. I think it gives me an advantage against the players, against the field, because I'm confident with it. I feel like I can hit the fairways, and then if it's wet and soft, I can really feel like I can hit the fairways and then have shorter distances to pins, and you can attack more."
The forecast doesn't call for wet and soft. It does call for the ravenousness of Adam Scott and Justin Rose as they crave second majors, among other leaderboard hassles. But maybe we can take Dufner at his word from after Atlanta and note his gratefulness, because we've read through the Fort Smiths and the Miccosukees and the Livermore Valley Wine Country Championships. "I want to be as good as I can be," he said, "and if that's 20th in the world with no majors -- or first in the world with 10 majors, or never win a Tour event -- I'll be fine with it." Maybe that's the voice of somebody who has played some Gila River and some Permian Basin and some Boise, and who just had himself a day.