Jason Dufner’s game is on the rise.
So is his persona. We’re learning there is more than meets the eye as we get to know the subtle, wry dimensions of his personality.
NBC analyst Johnny Miller said in a media conference call this week that Dufner was among his favorites at the U.S. Open because he had the game and the personality to win at The Olympic Club. Miller said Dufner is one of those competitors who barely seem to have a pulse, and he likes those guys at a U.S. Open.
Here is one man’s completely subjective listing of the top 10 personalities in men’s professional golf under age 50, guys with a ton of pulse, guys who you eagerly await in the media room after good rounds because you know they’re going to fill up your notebook. They may be on this list because they’re funny, quirky or just gifted with colorful insight into the game and human nature, or maybe all of the above:
1. Bubba the White
Bubba Watson’s personality is much too large to be restrained to a single spot atop this listing of top-10 personalities. Bubba the White, like Gandalf the White in the Lord of the Rings, radiates with a wizardly charm. Watson possesses a quirky but intriguing perspective on life as only Bubba can see it. He’ll make you chuckle at his folksy views. He’ll also awe you with the magic in that pink driver of his.
2. Bubba the Grey
Like J.R.R. Tolkien’s wizard, Bubba has a darker alter ego who fits the author’s description, “. . . quick at times to sharp speech and the rebuking of folly.” Yeah, that’s pretty much Bubba, too, though folly is clearly in the eye of the beholder.
3. Paul Goydos
If this guy won more, he would be a superstar. His wit and dry humor were unveiled for all to see in his playoff loss at The Players Championship four years ago. He’s Bob Newhart in golf cleats. He is self-deprecating and gifted in expressing it with some good one-liners.
4. Rocco Mediate
He is not your ordinary PGA Tour pro, to be sure. For starters, he has a tattoo on his right arm (RNM, the first initials of his three sons). He is a wisecracker who can be brutally honest – just ask Tiger Woods – but in the most disarming fashion, usually. Nobody rambles more delightfully than Rocco. You rarely want him to stop talking when he’s in the media room.
5. Phil Mickelson
Yeah, he’s a lightning rod, but Lefty brings as much game into the media room as he does on the golf course. His messages can be calculating, but he wins us over delivering them so cleverly. There’s a lot of thought that goes into Lefty’s opinions, and they carry considerable weight in the game. When Mickelson makes a stand, he makes it count. And while he may lumber across a golf course, he is as quick as anyone on his feet in the media room, with witty jabs and needles aimed at writers.
6. Boo Weekley
The guy galloped down the first fairway at Valhalla in the shadow of Churchill Downs straddling his driver as if he were riding Secretariat. You don’t see that every day at a Ryder Cup. He was voted Class Clown his senior year at Milton High in the Florida panhandle. He once felt like a clown getting knocked out by an orangutan in a boxing match at a carnival. Weekley tells his stories with a folksy charm that endears him to his audiences.
7. Henrik Stenson
The Swede once stripped to his underwear to hit a shot out of the muck at Doral. He looked completely uninhibited doing so. He was as funny talking about it as he was doing it. Even amid slumps, some nasty ones that might have ended the careers of lesser men, Stenson is a cheerful subject, mostly.
8. Lee Westwood
His sharp, penetrating English wit comes through in most of his media sessions. Westwood is smart, and he knows how to make an important point with levity punctuating his message. That’s a nice trick. His opinions also carry substantial weight because of the respect he has won among his peers.
9. Graeme McDowell
The good-humored Irish outlook passes comfortably through McDowell’s persona. He is candid, with strong opinion, but he has the knack of making you like him even if you disagree with him.
10. Rory McIlroy
The youngest member of this list, McIlroy, 23, can sound wise beyond his years in an interview room, while also being boyishly playful. He is surprisingly unguarded for a No. 1 player in the world, open and eager to share his opinions.
Honorable mention: Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Darren Clarke, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy, Jerry Kelly.