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Dufner Fires Second Straight 66 to Take Lead in Transitions Championship
Jason Dufner carded another 66 to assume the 36-hole lead in the Transitions Championship. The $5.5 million PGA Tour event started Thursday on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla.
For the second straight day, Dufner - a 34-year-old who's still looking for his first win on Tour - fired five birdies and 13 pars, with nary a bogey in sight. He stands at 10-under 132, two strokes ahead of first-round leader Padraig Harrington and William McGirt.
Needless to say, Dufner is happy with his play. "Pretty similar to yesterday," he said. "Pretty stress free again. Not really many mistakes out there. I hit a lot of fairway, a lot of greens, and pretty easy 5 under again. So that was nice, even when I was saving par, they were inside of three or four feet.
"So pretty stress free round. Pretty happy with my ball striking. It's kind of a nice change from last week with the wind being not as aggressive as it was last week, I felt like I was playing pretty good last week but the wind was kind of tricking me a little. You know, it's a good start to the week." (See below for his full post-round interview.)
Harrington, who began the round with a three-shot margin over the field, shot 12 strokes higher than his opening round 10-under 61, which established a new course record. The 40-year-old Irishman carded three bogeys and a birdie en route to his 73 on Friday. His primary problem was on the greens. On Thursday Harrington needed only 22 putts, while in the second round he took 33 strokes on the short grass.
Harrington and McGirt, who carded a 68, are at 8-under 134. Despite losing the lead, Harrington, a three-time major champion, is still close to the top of the leaderboard and looking forward to the weekend. "I'm happy with my game, but when you shot a good score, it's hard to match the next day," said Harrington, who started the second round on the 10th hole. "When you're leading the tournament, it's hard not to be a little bit cautious and I think at times I was on the greens. I struggled to get the ball up to the hole a lot today. You know, it was what it was. I certainly freed up on my back nine. I felt I had some birdie chances.
"Disappointed to three-putt the sixth and seventh," he added. "You know, I would actually say, my mother cursed at me for missing the tap in on six. She wouldn't be so impressed with me not going through my routine on that. But, you know, these things happen. It's disappointing as I said to make a couple of bogeys there. It would have been okay if I got to that clubhouse and certainly shooting 70 or so. But I'm glad it's not Sunday. I know I have to putt a little bit better on Sunday and I have to be - you've got to have a little bit more flow if you're going to win tournaments. I didn't do that much damage today."
Tied for fourth at 135 are Americans Chris Couch (68), Ken Duke (67) and George McNeill (68), No. 2-ranked Luke Donald (68) and South Korean Sang-Moon Bae (66).
McNeill, who won last week's Puerto Rico Open, felt that his game was coming around earlier in the year in California but only in the past week has he seen positive results. "Well, a little bit in L.A. actually," he noted of when his swing started to improve. "My scores didn't show it but I felt good with what I was doing with my game. And then the Honda, I missed the cut by a shot but I walked way from there and I said, wow, I don't know how I missed the cut, because I felt like I hit it nice and played well. Even the guys I played with, they are like, man, you're swinging at it good. So there and then the following week, I went down to Puerto Rico."
Donald, who's gotten off to a slow start this season after a stellar 2011 in which he won the money list titles on both the PGA and European tours, is also seeing his game rounding into shape. "My game is close, I'm really hitting decent shots but I'm not quite there," said the 34-year-old Englishman. "I'm hoping that it can just all click into place a little bit better on the weekend and make a good run."
Tied for ninth at 136 are Americans Jim Furyk (70) and Kenny Perry (70), Australia's John Senden (70) and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who posted his second straight 68.
A host of players share 13th at 5-under 137, including former major champions Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, Webb Simpson, and last week's winner in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, Justin Rose, who has shot 67 and 70.
Defending champion Gary Woodland has some catching up to do. The Kansas native has posted rounds of 68 and 71 and is seven back of Dufner.
The weekend cut line was set at 1-under 141. For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboards/current/r475/.
After signing his card, Dufner met with reporters and discussed his consistent efforts.
MODERATOR: Jason, bogey free for the first 36 holes and your second consecutive 66 today gives you the lead at 10 under par right now, very nice playing. A few general thoughts about the round and maybe how it compared to yesterday.
JASON DUFNER: Pretty similar to yesterday. Pretty stress free again. Not really many mistakes out there. I hit a lot of fairway, a lot of greens, and pretty easy 5 under again. So that was nice, even when I was saving par, they were inside of three or four feet. So pretty stress free round. Pretty happy with my ball striking. It's kind of a nice change from last week with the wind being not as aggressive as it was last week, I felt like I was playing pretty good last week but the wind was kind of tricking me a little. You know, it's a good start to the week.
MODERATOR: You want to take us through your round with the five birdies.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, No. 1, I hit a 3 wood up by the green just short. Chipped to about two feet. 3, I hit a 3 iron off the tee, 5 iron to about maybe 15 feet. Made that one. 5, I hit driver, 3 wood just right short of the green and pitched to about three feet, birdie. 9, I hit a driver, 7 iron to about 25 feet. Made it. Then 11, hit driver, 5 wood just on the front right of the green, 2 putted from probably about 75 feet.
MODERATOR: Did you have any good saves?
JASON DUFNER: Not really to be honest with you. They were all - I hit a lot of greens. Nice pitch on 12. I hit from just short of the green. Made about a 2 footer. That was about it. It was kind of a boring round.
Q. Just the way you play of keeping everything right in front of you, you talk about a stress free round, I can't imagine you ever have stressful days?
JASON DUFNER: Occasionally it can be pretty stressful. I like to try to keep it in play, like you said, out in front of me, where I can try to work on some shot selections into hole locations, trying to be a little less aggressive. Especially when you kind of have weird numbers or you're not quite as comfortable. It's a bit of a mind game with me. I tend to be a little too aggressive at times and get myself in trouble. After last week, I kind of thought about it and I felt like, if I felt comfortable or if I had a good number, I would play aggressive. But I think when I was a little bit uncomfortable or had a bad number with a club, I would try to find the fat of the green and maybe make a par from 30 feet.
Q. Example from today?
JASON DUFNER: Like on No. 4, it was kind of a weird number for me. I took a little bit more club, played behind the hole. Same with 13, the other par 3, pin is kind of on the front, would have been a perfect 7 but if I mis hit it, it would be in the water.
Q. What did you hit on 4?
JASON DUFNER: 25 feet past and left, and same thing on 13. So you know, and 1 there, there's kind of a tricky pin on the back left. I actually hit a really nice shot but it was a less aggressive approach. It's just kind of picking the right shot at the right time. You have to really be patient out here. I think most guys, when you're playing well, you're going to make enough birdies. It's just how can you limit the mistakes, how can you limit the bogeys.
Q. What was your thinking today after Harrington posted a number like that yesterday?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, that was an unbelievable round yesterday. But I had some work to do. I felt like if I played a solid round, I could be in contention. For some reason when guys shoot crazy low numbers like that, it really seems to be hard the next day to put another low number up. I figured he would shoot under par. Obviously didn't. But I didn't feel like the tournament was over because he shot 10 under. You have to do a little bit of chasing and you're kind of hoping in the back of your mind he comes back to you a little bit. I don't know why that's so hard. I mean, I've dealt with it; every player's dealt with it. You shoot a great number and you feel like you're going to shoot under par every day and you kind of back up the next day and that seems to be like a law of averages thing.
Q. Is it easier to shoot 5 under two days in a row or 10 under once? (Laughter).
JASON DUFNER: Neither one is very easy. But you know, it's probably a little bit harder to shoot 10 under I would say. That's a really low score on this golf course. Obviously everything is going great for him. Read a little write up, I think he made almost 200 feet of putts for the day which is a ridiculous number. Everything was going great for him yesterday. So, you know, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I don't have a bogey. That means what I thought about going into this week, about being a little bit more conservative and trusting my short game in spots here and there and trusting my lag putting has kind of paid off a little bit. There's been some holes, I played the par 5s extremely well, 7 under, I feel like you can be aggressive on those.
Q. When is the last time you went this long without a bogey?
JASON DUFNER: Maybe the PGA. I went a long time without making a bogey at the PGA. I know I didn't make a bogey the third day. I think I made bogey on maybe the fourth hole the second day, and I didn't make a bogey until 15 on the final round. So that's a good stretch there from the fourth hole to the second round all the way to the 15th hole of the final round.
Q. What do you like about this course?
JASON DUFNER: This is a great golf course. Got to play some strategy. Got to keep it in play off the tee so you can be a little bit aggressive into the greens. There's some good angles into pins as far as how the green sits and your relationship to fairways. You have to hit some unique shots. We've been lucky a little bit, the wind has been down a little bit and that's been making it a little easier and the rough is down a little bit from what we are used to. That's made it a little easier to control your chipping and pitching around the green. Usually it's pretty hard to chip and pitch around this golf course. I love this golf course and had a pretty good record here, a lot of solid rounds.
Q. Have you even sniffed the fifth green in two?
JASON DUFNER: Not often. I usually hit 3 wood there, so lay up.
Q. Just short of the bunker?
JASON DUFNER: Short of that bunker. So today I just felt good with my driver right off the bat, it was early in the round and I was trying to maybe make an easy birdie, maybe sneak it past that bunker. Hit a good shot around the green.
Q. You weren't in the bunker on the green, were you?
JASON DUFNER: No, it actually rolled through and went up on the too of the lip in the grass. That's one of the hole locations that's a little bit trickier to get to with wedge. Maybe tomorrow if conditions are similar, maybe play the same thing would be nice.
Q. What did you hit on 8 today?
JASON DUFNER: 8 I hit 3 iron just a little bit past the hole there on the left.
Q. I didn't have Auburn in my bracket, what happened this year?
JASON DUFNER: It's been a while since they have had a good basketball team. But they have got a good coach and they are trying to get better. But not this year.
Q. They don't fly you in to help recruit or anything?
JASON DUFNER: No, that's a violation. Stay away from those. (Laughter).
Q. How much would it mean to win here?
JASON DUFNER: It would be great. There's been a lot of talk in the media about winning because I haven't won yet, I'm maybe the only guy in the top 50 not have won on one of the major tours. It's definitely a goal, I definitely felt like last year after some close calls I was ready to make that jump and start winning some tournaments, so I think it could be a great steppingstone and give me some more confidence going forward.
Q. Does it grate on you, answering the question?
JASON DUFNER: Maybe a little bit. I feel like I play a lot of good golf and I'm just waiting for my chance to get one of those championships. After I retire and I didn't win, I'd probably still feel okay because I had a good run if I continue to play this way. But playing as well as I have at times, I really wish that I had a victory so far and I'm looking forward to trying to get one.
Q. Have you pressed at all because of that?
JASON DUFNER: Maybe not pressed, but the thing that's tough for me right now is when I play well or I've got a chance to win and things kind of, like last week, I played really well the first day and just kind of went downhill. I kind of get a little bit loss of focus and kind of forget about that tournament, so to speak. So that's one thing that I've been kind of thinking about that needs to be a little bit better. So you know, there's a little bit of pressure from myself to kind of win. I feel like I'm good enough and really trying to get a victory and think about the things that have cost me some of the chances to win.
Q. Did those close calls last year help eliminate any doubts you had that you could win or had you already gotten - felt pretty confident that you could?
JASON DUFNER: You know, last year was really good and I felt like I had some really good chances to win and a couple shots here or there or from me or one of my opponents go a little different, then I'm holding some trophies last year. But I think you can draw from those close calls. You hear from a lot of the players; McIlroy last year at the Masters talking about how it inspired him and drove him that he could win one of these majors. I might not quite be thinking about winning majors at that level like he might, but it's the same thing at these normal, regular Tour events that we play.
Q. Did you know that you were the only guy in the top 50 without a win or did somebody tell you?
JASON DUFNER: I think I had noticed that when I started looking at it. I was like, well, you've played some pretty good golf, but all of these guys seem to have won.
Q. Do you see it as a good thing or a bad thing?
JASON DUFNER: A little bit of both. It's a good thing that I've played that well to be ranked that high without a victory, because the victories really jump you up in the World Rankings. Obviously finishing second is going to jump you up a lot; it's almost like a win, you get a ton of points for that. It's a good thing on that note. Like I said it's a little disappointing that I have not won yet, but there's a lot of events this year and next year and the year after.
Q. Do you know all those guys in the top 50?
JASON DUFNER: Pretty much, yeah. I follow a good bit of golf.
Q. Drawing a blank on your Masters experience.
JASON DUFNER: When did I play?
Q. A couple years ago?
JASON DUFNER: 2010. Finished 30th. Not too bad. Looking forward to going back. Definitely missed it last year.
MODERATOR: Continued good luck, thank you.
The transcript for the above story is courtesy of ASAP Sports.