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Dufner in Good Position Heading into Deutsche Bank Championship
Even though he took last week's Barclays off, Jason Dufner is still sixth in the season-long FedEx Cup rankings. The 35-year-old, who won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans earlier this season and has eight top-10 finishes in 19 starts, spent last week at home relaxing instead of playing the tough Bethpage Black course in New York.
One of the reasons for his one-week vacation is because of a busy upcoming schedule. "I feel good after the week off, had a nice week at home just resting, getting ready for this stretch run of last three events," he told reporters Wednesday at the site of this week's Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four FedEx Cup events that starts Friday at TPC Boston.
"Just took the week off. If I would have played last week I would have had to play eight of nine weeks through the Ryder Cup, which is a lot of golf, and I felt like just the way the schedule kind of broke down, it was a good week to take off last week, and looking forward to kind of peaking towards the end of the Playoffs and rolling into the Ryder Cup."
Based on his performance this season, Dufner is one of the eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will attempt to take back the Cup in late September at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.
Dufner will be a rookie on the squad, joining Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson. Captain Davis Love III will make his four captain's picks on September 4 at the conclusion of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
On Wednesday, Dufner met with reporters and discussed the state of his game heading into the second FedEx Cup Playoffs event. Here's what the Auburn grad had to tell the media during his sit-down session with them.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Jason Dufner. Jason is No.6 in the FedEx Cup standings. If you want to talk about your thoughts coming into this week and then we'll have a few questions.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. You know, had a good run regular season to get to this point, excited about the last three events, playing some great golf courses against some obviously great fields. Everybody that's here has been playing well. Looking forward to continuing the Playoffs and just kind of finishing the year off on a high note.
Q. You won at New Orleans this year. Just what are your thoughts on what's happening there with the hurricane?
JASON DUFNER: You know, I didn't even realize that the hurricane was going to New Orleans, so that's news to me. Obviously after what they went through with Katrina, that's not some news that you want to hear. Obviously I don't know how severe it is right now, but it's a difficult situation for them. I really haven't been following the storm to be honest with you. Hopefully everybody is okay and they're not getting too much damage and flooding in the area.
Q. You took last week off. Why, and how do you feel after the week off?
JASON DUFNER: I feel good after the week off, had a nice week at home just resting, getting ready for this stretch run of last three events. Just took the week off. If I would have played last week I would have had to play eight of nine weeks through the Ryder Cup, which is a lot of golf, and I felt like just the way the schedule kind of broke down, it was a good week to take off last week, and looking forward to kind of peaking towards the end of the Playoffs and rolling into the Ryder Cup.
Q. Could you talk about what that month was like after going so - struggling for a few years early in your career and then finally breaking through, you win twice in a month and get a second place, as well. How did that change things for you?
JASON DUFNER: You know, it just gave me a lot of confidence going forward that the things that I've been working on have been correct and have been kind of pushing me in the direction of winning out here and being competitive out here. It gave me a sense of feeling when I stepped to the tee for that first round that I have a chance to win the golf tournaments, that I'm not guessing about maybe how I'm going to play or what might go on. I feel like I'm going to play well each week. So it just gave me a lot of confidence and security in the fact that things I've been working on the last couple years have been paying off.
Q. And personally did it lead to a lot of people recognizing you in places where maybe before they hadn't?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, all that's been real good. Obviously I live in a pretty small town, Auburn, pretty close knit to the University. So living there a lot of people recognize me. The thing I didn't expect is when we go to bigger cities, for example, Providence, where I'm staying this week, had a couple people recognize me at dinner. It seems to be all over America people are kind of taking notice of my game and recognizing me out in public. So that's kind of been a little bit of an adjustment. I kind of expected it living in the small town that I do, though.
Q. Could you share any thoughts you have about the Ryder Cup, what your thoughts are looking forward to it, and if you are the captain looking at these selections, what would be your criteria? What would you be wanting to look for in the captain's picks?
JASON DUFNER: You know, I can't wait for the Ryder Cup to finally get here. There's been a lot of talk about it since I made the team, so it's been an anticipation of the event. I think as a golfer, for me it's probably one of the biggest events, if not the biggest event to participate in. Pretty select amount of players, you only get 12 from each side every two years. So pretty tough team to get on, so it's a huge accomplishment for me. Just everything I've heard about the Ryder Cup has been fantastic and just a great experience overall professionally and personally.
As far as picks goes, I've looked for - if I was captain, I'd be looking at guys that have some experience with the Ryder Cup and then guys that are playing well right now. I think we have a couple weeks until the Ryder Cup goes, and I know that I think he selects on Monday, is that correct, for the selections? Tuesday? So you kind of want to go with a little bit of experience and maybe - or I would want to go with a little bit of experience and guys that are playing well right now. There's a pretty big group of guys he can select from, so I don't think he can go really wrong with any of the selections that he makes with those four picks.
Q. Concerning playing well right now, this is still a month before the Ryder Cup. From your experience, when you get hot, which you've obviously been hot, how predictably and reliably does that carry over a month from now?
JASON DUFNER: You know, that's a hard - hard to pinpoint on that. Obviously if you were a captain, you'd love to pick the day before the Ryder Cup starts with the guys that are playing the best right there, but that's not a luxury that they have. It's hard to pinpoint to say exactly if you're playing well this week or last week if you're going to play well a month from now. But you kind of got to just go with I would think with what you think is going to be the best, who might be playing the best at this particular moment.
Q. I was wondering if you could go back to Hilton Head. You opened with a 78 and then you went low the next two rounds and then after that you won two of your next three starts. Was there something after that 78 that kind of turned? Did you think about things at that time, or was there something there that maybe flipped a switch a little bit?
JASON DUFNER: No, not particularly. I think I'd been playing pretty well before that event. I think that 78 was just one of those days, nothing really went right. I felt pretty good. I remember feeling pretty good going in on that next day because I played early that I'd have a good round. I don't think that really keyed on to anything. I think I had just been playing pretty solid all year. That round just kind of seemed to be the worst one of the year so far.
Q. You're fourth in greens this year. That's a big jump from any other year you've had statistically speaking. Is there something that you concentrated on with your iron play this year?
JASON DUFNER: No, not particularly, just the numbers kind of - I think the numbers are pretty close to the same. Maybe the ranking is not the same, but it might be a percentage or two percentages here or there. So nothing particularly that I focused on with my iron play to get any better, just all around just trying to be a better player with all aspects of my game.
Q. Were you worried about a slide taking the week off with the FedEx Cup with the way the playoff format is?
JASON DUFNER: Not really. You know, the main goal for me is to be in that Tour Championship. If you're in that Tour Championship, you've got a realistic chance of winning the whole FedEx Cup. I didn't pay too much attention to it. I think somebody said I was sixth, so I guess I moved down a couple spots. But you'd like to be as high as you can obviously going into that Tour Championship. But I've got two weeks before that starts. I had a little bit of a nice luxury of playing so well during the season that I could kind of afford to take a week off.
Q. Being No. 3, did that factor into the decision of taking the week off, just having that luxury, like you said? Kind of expand on that.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, obviously if I was 98th or 95th in the points I probably would have played last week. If I was 35th or 40th I probably would have played. Being that I played so well earlier in the year, I kind of gave myself an opportunity that I could take a week off, so that was a nice luxury to have and be able to use it at that moment to just get a week off and get rested for the rest of the year.
Q. Have you gotten a chance to play 18 yet?
JASON DUFNER: I have not been on the golf course this week. I heard they made some adjustments to the green complex on 18, so I'll be checking them out tomorrow in the pro-am.
Q. How easy was it before?
JASON DUFNER: Easy in what manner?
Q. Was it a pretty easy hole?
JASON DUFNER: Well, that greens is pretty tough because if you come up short, obviously you're in the hazard, and going over the back is not too easy to get up and down. So I've actually had issues with hitting second shots into that green in the past. Maybe it'll be a little easier for me. I heard that there's kind of a fairway approach to the left and short of the green, so maybe that gives you a little bit more error on your second shot. But then I've heard that the slope on the green might be a little bit more difficult. To me it hasn't been an easy shot for whatever reason. Maybe I'm in between clubs or trying to hit long irons off - usually I'm hitting a long iron off a down-slope over a hazard, which isn't the easiest shot for me.
Q. I guess you were hitting some balls left handed yesterday. What does that do for you? Does it stretch you out or is it just for fun?
JASON DUFNER: Just a time waster (laughter). That's absolutely nothing. I've played a couple rounds at home left handed just for fun against the members. I think the best score I've shot for nine holes was 46, so I've got a lot of improvement to do.
Q. Could I just get your thoughts on how you play the 11th hole, the par 3 up the hill?
JASON DUFNER: On this golf course?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, that's obviously one of the most challenging holes on the course, pretty long uphill par 3. Seems to be for whatever reason a little bit in between clubs for me. You're just trying to get it somewhere on that surface and two putt and go about your business. I think club selection on that hole is pretty key. You want to try and get something past that bunker, but you don't want to be over the back of that green. So that hole is kind of a par hole on this golf course, and you're just looking to kind of find a club that's going to get you in the middle of the green and get your two putt and sneak in a 30 footer and go about your business.
Q. And the 16th hole on the back side, talk about the green complex a little bit.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, that's a pretty neat hole there. You've got a great area for fan spectating, viewing. Seems to be a lot of excitement there. You've got some mounds and some kind of funnel areas that kind of funnel towards some hole locations, so there seems to be a lot of excitement on that green. You've got the hazard left. So you could see a big swing come Monday in the finish, somebody could make a two, and then somebody could hit a poor shot and make a 4 or 5. That's kind of a neat hole. I really enjoy playing that hole. That hole actually is a good club fit for me. I always seem to hit an 8 iron, and usually I have a pretty reasonable birdie putt on that hole, so that hole is a little bit more enjoyable than 11 for us.
Q. Among the half dozen or so players that are usually mentioned among the four picks for the Ryder Cup, do you have any better friends there that you personally would just like to see on the team?
JASON DUFNER: Out of the guys that haven't been selected?
JASON DUFNER: No, not particularly. I've played with just about every one of the guys in tournament rounds or practice rounds. I've played a couple practice rounds with Hunter Mahan this year, I've played a couple practice rounds with Dustin this year, played a lot of rounds with Dustin this year out on Tour. Those guys maybe a little bit, those two guys are a little bit closer. But I'd say as far as friendships go I'd know them all pretty equally. We're not the best of friends, but it's not like we walk past each other and don't know each other at all. Out of those, there's not a great friendship amongst any of them that are being selected, I guess.
MODERATOR: Thanks for your time, Jason. Good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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