Featured Golf News
Dufner Enjoys Quick Return to Winner's Circle
Having to explain why he never could quite get over the hump and win on the PGA Tour is a thing of the past for Jason Dufner. The 35-year-old took care of that in late April when he notched his first victory in 164 starts by finishing on top of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
When it rains it pours apparently because it took less than a month for Dufner's second victory. The Ohio native, who now lives in Auburn, Ala., near where he went to college, fired a 3-under 67 Sunday to end up at 11-under 269, one stroke ahead of fellow Alabaman Dicky Pride, to win the Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas.
In addition to taking home $1.17 million, Dufner racked up another 500 FexEx Cup points, which vaulted him to the top of the standings in the season-long points' race that culminates with the $10 million FedEx Cup Playoffs later in the season.
Dufner also moved up to 14th in the latest World Golf Ranking, which came out on Monday. After signing his scorecard Sunday evening, Dufner met with reporters for the following Q&A. Here's what he had to say about his latest triumph on the PGA Tour.
MODERATOR: We would like to welcome the 2012 HP Byron Nelson Champion, Jason Dufner here to the interview room. Congratulations! Huge victory for you. Your second in four weeks, and with the win here, you move to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, and a birdie to end it on Sunday.
JASON DUFNER: Great week for me golf-wise. Tough conditions throughout the week. Today was easier. That's why I think you saw the leaderboard jam up there toward the top, made for exciting golf toward the end. Good bit of guys had a chance to claim the trophy. It was nice to have a birdie putt there at the end to win, and not to be in a playoff for once. So just all in all a great week the last month. You couldn't ask for anything more professionally or personally, for what's been going on.
Q. Did you know once you hit the putt that it was going to go in?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it looked pretty good. For some reason I had a really good visual on that putt. I don't read putts, I don't say to myself, that putt breaks a cup or two cups, I just try to see visually where I want the ball to roll, see it going in the hole visually, and that felt good. I don't think I've had it in the past, I don't think I've practiced it much in the past. It was kind of a dream for a right hander to have a putt that breaks to the left, downhill, you don't have to worry about the speed. I really got locked into the line that I wanted and focused on making the putt, thinking about making a good stroke and about halfway there I thought it had a good chance.
Q. Can you just talk, Jason, about the fact that pretty disappointing PGA last year, and you bounced back in good style I think. A lot of people would have to say it's impressive. Can you take us through the disappointment of last year and how you were able to put it behind you?
JASON DUFNER: There wasn't much disappointment from last year, maybe for a little bit after the PGA, but played well at the PGA, first time in a major to play that well to have a chance to win. I think it really just propelled me this off season. I played some events overseas where I played well, and I was thinking coming into the beginning of this year that I could play some really good golf. It's time to win some events out here. So I think everything that happened last year has propelled me into playing well this year, and like I've said a lot of times, I feel comfortable on the golf course when I'm out there. I feel like I'm in good control of my game, getting better emotionally with dealing with the pressures of trying to win out here.
Q. I can tell.
JASON DUFNER: There is a bit of a battle out there. I'm not the most comfortable on the greens, putting. Some days I struggle with it, other days are better. Today was pretty good. So I just think everything is coming full circle, and I have worked hard to get to this level.
Q. Jason, take us through the 18th hole. Did you know where you stood on the tee? Confident tee shot, 314 down the middle, and take us through the roar from Dicky making his putt. Seemed like you played it confidently.
JASON DUFNER: I played it reasonably well. I don't think I've hit it in the water off the tee, so I was comfortable. I assumed Dicky's putt was for birdie, my caddie told me otherwise. I knew we were tied after I hit the tee shot. That bunker is a good aiming point, been swinging well with the driver, so I was comfortable with that. I was surprised how far I got out there. I don't think I've hit sand wedge into that hole, 110 yards in. So I felt like I could be aggressive with the second shot, didn't want to get crazy aggressive with it and lose it left in the water. That hole location funnels in. I had a spot picked out, actually the wind pushed the ball further right than where I had picked out.
It was probably about 25 feet or so that I had, so that's a make-able putt. I knew where I stood in the fairway. I knew if I made birdie that I would win, par would be a playoff, but the playoffs aren't much fun. My experience in them aren't that great. Obviously New Orleans was better than the others, but when I stepped up to that putt, I just had a good idea of what it was going to do and felt like I could make it.
Q. Could you talk about what was going through your mind as you had a struggle to start with. You had a couple of bogeys then you see a hole in one, obviously that had to take you back a little bit.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, a little bit. I think I made eight bogeys for the week, five of them on the first three holes. Obviously, I don't like those holes. I was used to the start. So I just told myself I needed to get a ball in the fairway on 4 because that's accessible hole location. On 5, same, saw a hole in one so ton of birdies on that hole today. I wasn't too concerned about it. My start, obviously I can't control what my competitors are doing, obviously J.J. holing out, neat to be part of, final group, final round. Either way he was going to make birdie at worst and got it to go in. I don't concern myself with what they're doing or how that's going. I was confident that we were going to be battling it out to the end.
Q. Jason, obviously, like you said, it's been a wild month. Now you have the two wins, FedEx Cup, top 10 in the World Golf rankings. Does a win like this make you a favorite for the U.S. Open or certainly get Davis Love's attention?
JASON DUFNER: I hope it gets Davis Love's attention. I think I will be No. 1 in the points, so I hope that gets his attention. Obviously being a Ryder Cup year, that would be special to have on your resume and play in, even if it's only for one time. That was one of my main goals. The FedEx Cup, being No. 1 is a great position to be in, but we're maybe a little more than halfway through, so we have a long haul on that. All these things that come with winning are great but I don't think much about 'em, other than The Ryder Cup and trying to win tournaments.
Q. The U.S. Open?
JASON DUFNER: I'll let someone else decide if I'm a favorite or not. I'm playing good golf, but you can go into a tournament and have a bad week and miss the cut. I feel comfortable with my game. I love the setup of the U.S. Open; I think it suits my style of golf, and I think I could play well. I've never played the Olympic Club, but I don't consider myself a favorite. The number 1 player in the world can miss the cut; that's just how golf goes.
Q. In a span of 22 days you've won your first two Tour events and you got married. Are you going to make sure you don't slap yourself and wake up?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it's pretty - I don't think you could - you probably couldn't dream it any better than what's been going on here. The wedding has been in the works for close to a year so - I guess I proposed in July of last year, so we know that's been coming around the corner, and there's been a lot of good golf since then, but to win two events and get married in the span of 22 days, pretty remarkable. Amanda and I are lucky to be in the position we're in and to have each other and enjoy what's going on around us right now.
Q. Jason, can you go over the last three or four holes there? You've got a good look at 15, on 16 you needed to make something happen out of the bunker, 17, did you have a sense over the green what you needed to do there?
JASON DUFNER: We had a good battle going there, right when he hit that putt on 15, it got 15 feet off the putter, and I thought it was going to go in. He's going to look back at 17 and being disappointed, obviously, but I tried to stay patient with it. Those last holes are pretty tough. 16, obviously a lot of guys are making birdie there, and I would have liked to have a better opportunity other than being in that bunker. That's a difficult bunker shot, but we both made it look easy. On 17 I was in between clubs, and I wasn't sure what to hit and he air mailed the green, and that helped me know what I had to hit, and I even hit it long. We had a good battle. With what happened to him on 17 I knew I was tied for the lead and in a good spot. You can play off each other, a little. Obviously a couple times he helped me out, and I'm sure a couple of times I helped him out with what was going on out there.
Q. Dicky was joining the gallery and applauding your last putt. Did you guys exchange anything after the round?
JASON DUFNER: He just said congratulations and great playing. I've known Dicky since 2001 or 2002. He was on the Nationwide Tour, and that was my rookie year. He's from Alabama, I went to school at Auburn, so we had a little bit of a connection, I guess you could say. I've seen him around a lot. We have been supportive of each other, we always stick each other in the side about football or basketball or this or that. I'm glad Dicky had a great week. I know that he's been playing well this year and hopefully that will continue. I've known him for a long time.
Q. Who is your caddie and was there any discussion about the fact that there was a Cadillac on the way for him?
JASON DUFNER: I don't think he knew, but he definitely needed a new car. That Tahoe he has at home is pretty beat up. His name is Kevin Baile, so hopefully he will be driving that car around Auburn and can get rid of that Tahoe.
Q. I had a chance to watch you some today and throughout the week. You seemed so confident. I just wondered, the feeling that you had - you may have touched on this. What you were feeling coming down the stretch this week as opposed to New Orleans or the PGA, having won. Did that make - did you feel a big difference because of that?
JASON DUFNER: I think a little bit. I think every tournament is separate and different from the others. You know, the biggest thing I learned about New Orleans or from New Orleans is staying patient out here. There were times in New Orleans where I felt like I was out of it, then there was no way I was going to lose, then I was out of it, and you get these flip flopping emotions. Today I didn't have that as much. I always felt like I was in there, I just needed a little something to happen, to go my way, and fortunately a couple of things went bad for guys finishing on those last couple of holes, and I was able to play those last three in 2 under. That's the difference as to why I was able to get the victory and stay patient.
Q. Now that you've been on both sides of the finish line - you were on the other side getting close and not doing it, and now that you've won twice in 22 days, what is the difference in that fine line of winning and not winning, now that you've experienced it?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, that's really hard to put your finger on. I'm sure there has been times when I felt like I've hit good shots and the shots didn't end up where I wanted to, or I've hit good putts and the putts missed, or you get a bad break. On the flip side you make a 50 footer. It's just such a fine line out here between wining and finishing second or 10th. It's hard to put your finger on. It could be a number of different things, different scenarios, and the one thing I realized is I'm not the only guy out there fighting those things. Everybody else is dealing with those things, so it evens out.
People don't realize how fine the line is between winning. J.J. played great all day. If he gets a wind gust on 17 and it knocks his ball down and catches that slope, he might be the champion. That's the difference between winning and not winning. Sometimes that can be a hard pill to swallow, but when I've been on the other side of it, I always took encouragement from it, that I was playing great golf, and my time was going to come.
Q. Jason, talk about the trophy ceremony, the connection with Peggy. Also two big trophies right now. Are you going to expand a room in your house?
JASON DUFNER: I don't know what we're going to do. We don't have much room in the house we're in. We have plans here in the near future to start building a new home in Auburn, so maybe we'll carve out a little special place for that. It's unique to have an event associated with Byron Nelson and his wife Peggy Nelson. I never got to meet Byron, but I've read a lot about the history of golf and what Byron did and what he's still doing with this event. Everything I've heard about him is not only he was a great golfer but a great man, and that's something to strive to work toward and to follow in the foot steps. It's a unique tournament to win. I always look on the 9th hole, every year they do those facts. I don't know if you've seen them, about Byron's career. And all the win and top 10s is impressive, but the most impressive thing to me is that he retired at the age of 34, which meant golf meant a lot to him, but he had other things in his life that he was going to pursue.
Q. When fans watch you on TV or see you in person, you look extraordinarily calm and non-expressive, even in victory. When you get back to the hotel room will you let out a primal scream or chest bump Kevin when you see him?
JASON DUFNER: No, none of that.
Q. Do you ever get extra-expressive?
JASON DUFNER: Here and there a couple of times a year. Usually there is some alcohol involved or Auburn football, but for the most part I'm laid back. We'll head over to Ft. Worth, check into the hotel, get dinner, chat, and we will be on to next week at the Colonial. We will celebrate a little bit, but I'm pretty laid back all the time for the most part.
MODERATOR: Jason, congratulations.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.