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Dufner 'Relieved' after First Win
Jason Dufner admitted that his winless streak was getting to him. He could make that confession after finally notching his first victory on the PGA Tour, getting past veteran Ernie Els on the second playoff Sunday afternoon at TPC Louisiana to take the title in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
"Probably relieved a little bit," the 35-year-old told reporters after accepting the hardware and $1.152 million winner's check. "There's been good bit of pressure - not pressure but just people talking about, you know, 'Why aren't you winning, why can't you close the deal,' et cetera, et cetera, you know from friends, family, media, even people in my inner circle.
"Not in a negative way but, you know, when you're leading tournaments going into weekends and you're finishing 24th there's going to be some questions," he added. "So for me to get that kind of off my back, maybe this will jump-start me and, you know, get me to start believing that I can compete out here on a week to week basis and win some of these things."
The timing of his maiden victory was particularly propitious, as Dufner will be marrying his long-time girlfriend, Amanda Boyd, next Saturday in his hometown of Auburn, Ala. "It's a great way to start the week for Amanda and I," he noted. "Great wedding present for both of us. Helps with paying for the wedding, obviously.
"They're a little built more expensive than I thought or had imagined but, you know, it's just a great way to start our week leading up to the wedding next week and bit of a gift for her and a bit of a gift for me and I think it will be, you know, a big celebration not only for our marriage but also for my first victory out on Tour next weekend in Auburn."
Here's what else Dufner had to say following his first triumph in 164 career starts on the Tour.
MODERATOR: Okay. Let's go ahead and get started. I'd like to welcome Jason Dufner. Jason, congratulations on your first win on Tour, exciting finish. If you want to take us through the last couple of playoff holes and your thoughts as you won your first event on Tour.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, definitely. You know, the Zurich Classic has always been one of my favorite stops here on Tour. Had some really nice results here. So, you know, to get my first victory out here on the PGA Tour means a lot to me and to do it here in New Orleans at the Zurich Classic is just a great thing and to know that I'll be coming back here as a defending champion next year and for years to come, coming back as the champion is just a really, really big honor for me.
You know, it's always really tough playing on Sundays whether you're in the lead or middle of the pack. Today I was fighting, you know, trying to win an event and, you know, I think I showed myself a good bit out there. It was tough. Ernie made a great run at me and I felt like, you know, with five, six holes we were probably going to be battling to see who is going to win. So, it's just - you know, your mind is in a lot of different places right now when you win your first Tour event. It's hard for me to get a handle on all of it. I'm really, really excited and kind of to get the monkey off my back is a great feeling.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Questions.
Q. Jason, can you talk about some of the par saving putts down the stretch and specifically the 16th hole and the 17th 1hole.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. Obviously putting not my strongest suit out here so to kind of close the door on some of those par saves really gave me a lot of confidence coming in. Let's see. Actually to start it off was probably on 14 the par 3, I'm not sure exactly how far I hit my approach putt past but I hit maybe eight to ten feet and that really kind of gave me some confidence that I could maybe close this thing out. Obviously, you throw, in a bomb on 16 for par, you know, that's unexpected but that's what I was trying to do. I knew I had to do it.
I actually had that putt last year for birdie so I was actually pretty comfortable. That's one nice thing about playing on the Tour, you get putts that you've had before. That was a beneficial from last year to know kind of what that putt did and actually make it. You know, little bit of luck when you're at that range but it was nice to go in. And then 17, obviously, another pretty key par save. You miss that green to the right there, the grass is pretty grainy over there so it's kind of hard to chip. I felt like my best chances was to keep that chip on the ground and had a good read and hit a pretty good putt.
I made some really nice putts that ended up getting me into that playoff and maybe missed a couple there with the regulation 18 and the 3-putt on 18 in the first playoff hole. So, I felt like my putting kind of got me through and, generally speaking, that's what you got to do to win an event.
Q. Does it seem somehow fitting that your first victory after the way your career has gone would take not one but two playoff holes and, second, does this win kind of give your best man some good material for his speech next week about not being nervous maybe before getting married?
JASON DUFNER: Definitely give him some good material. There's a lot of nerves out there. I know it doesn't look that way with me but it's pretty stressful when you're trying to win or trying to shoot a low score and, you know, obviously I haven't had a great history in playoffs last year and, you know, kind of goes through your mind, "I'm in another playoff, am I going to be able to get this done?" Once you get off to the tee and get going, you know, you kind of get comfortable a little bit. Obviously I got a second chance there with Ernie missing the putt on the first playoff hole and you know, I felt really comfortable on 18 all week. To get it on the green and two-putt put a little bit of pressure.
Q. Did you consider hitting it out of the water on 16 or you looked at it a long time and there was a gator in the area.
JASON DUFNER: No, I had no chance to hit that ball. It looks like it's firm footing down there. It's probably almost knee deep. I had no chance to get a club on that ball. I figured my best chance would be to get it back in play and try to wedge it close and obviously the wedge close didn't work but the putt did.
Q. Jason, just your thoughts about winning this tournament, your first on the eve of your marriage.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. It's a great way to start the week for Amanda and I. Great wedding present for both of us. Helps with paying for the wedding, obviously. They're a little built more expensive than I thought or had imagined but, you know, it's just a great way to start our week leading up to the wedding next week and bit of a gift for her and a bit of a gift for me and I think it will be, you know, a big celebration not only for our marriage but also for my first victory out on Tour next weekend in Auburn.
Q. Jason, did it help that Ernie was right in front of you and you could see what he was doing and after he made the eagle on 7, I think you answered right back with consecutive birdies? Did that give you a charge?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. That's always nice. You know, like I said yesterday, I look a little bit at the leaderboard so I kind of knew what was going on and he was just in front of me so I could kind of keep tabs on him. I didn't know that was for eagle but I guess he made eagle on 7 which took him to maybe 18-under, which I saw and I think I birdied like the next two. It's nice to keep tabs on it but sometimes - you know, I thought that putt was for birdie. I didn't know it was eagle. It can be harmful or helpful in both ways, I guess.
Q. You had mentioned that this tournament has been good to you. This is your fourth consecutive top-10 finish, I believe? What is it that brings out the best of you?
JASON DUFNER: It's hard to put my finger on it. I know it's not a course if you ask me what my favorite golf course is it - it wouldn't be at the top of the list but I just seem to really play well here. I'm very comfortable with the lines off the tees. I'm very comfortable with the greens and for whatever reason I picked up course knowledge very quickly on this golf course. I feel very comfortable in almost all spots on the golf course. I kind of know what to expect. I know what shots are needed. The wind is very consistent. We don't have a north wind very often on this golf course so it plays very similar to what we've had in four days. It's just a very comfortable spot for me and, like you said, I've had some great finishes. Also felt this would be one of the events I could win out here.
Q. Was it almost a battle of survival where there was so many red numbers up there and y'all got to 19 and then you and Ernie couldn't get one in until you got at the end? Was it almost like a battle of survival?
JASON DUFNER: Looked at the board maybe on 15 and saw that there was a little bit of separation. I'm not sure what - did 16-under finish 3rd? Yeah. I knew that.
JASON DUFNER: I knew there was some separation there seemed like, you know, 15, 16, 17, 18, you can kind of make some birdies so I figured it would be me and Ernie battling it out and he got off to that hot start and put a little pressure on me. I was really just trying to stay patient until I got to 16 and then - because I feel comfortable on that. I just didn't hit the shot like I wanted to. Anytime that pin is on the left I always hit 3-wood over the bunker to get a wedge in. I feel it's a little bit easier than hitting the 8-iron with the water tight. That's the first time I ever hit it in the water on that hole off the tee.
Q. Seemed like you took a couple extra seconds standing on that last putt on 18. Was anything running through your head as you were hitting that one-footer?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. "Don't miss it, because there is to win" (laughter). I hate to admit that but that will run through your head for a second and you want to make sure that thought is gone and on to stroking a one-footer like you do on Tuesday afternoon at your home course with one hand is what I was thinking about. You know, that would be, you know - those thoughts go through everybody's head. How do you deal with it, how do you get out of it, how do you focus on what you need to do?
Q. Jason, what are your honeymoon plans and when do you plan to re-join the Tour?
JASON DUFNER: The honeymoon is going to be at Players Championship. You ever been there? (Laughter). They got an island green. Pretty cool event. No. Yeah, I'm playing the next three after the wedding. Amanda and I talked about it before. She wanted to have a spring wedding then there was going to be a hold on the honeymoon or she could have a fall wedding and go right after. It's hard to schedule a wedding in the middle of the season. There's a lot of great events out here. It seems like there's a big event or major right around the corner every week now until, you know, Augusta. So, I think maybe after the U.S. Open, I'm not playing much, probably take off from the U.S. Open, British Open, possibly, and maybe find some time to get away and decompress and enjoy the start of our marriage.
Q. You were talking about standing over that one-foot putt. What did you think when Ernie's putt in the first playoff hole, did you think he was going to make it?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. Good mentality to have is to think that somebody is going to make a putt like that. Lot of guys think that way. Obviously it didn't go in so I felt like I had a second chance so that was nice. I did feel like he would make that putt. He's been out here a long time. He's won a lot of events. That's a tough putt. I had the same putt in regulation. It breaks a little bit more than you think. There's a good bit of grain pushing to the right. But I did feel like he would make that putt, yeah.
Q. I'm in charge of the wedding questions. What will be more nervous for you, to say "I do" or that one-foot putt?
JASON DUFNER: I think that one foot putt (laughter). Amanda and I have been living together for about three years now. We're pretty comfortable with each other. There's not too many surprises going on with our relationship and, you know, she knows how I like things at home and I know how she likes things at home so I'm very comfortable with her. I'm very lucky to have her. She's very supportive and been a hundred percent behind me from day one with this golf thing. So, you know, I don't have many questions or doubts about that part of my life. That's for sure. One-foot putts, sometimes.
Q. Just one more here. It's hard to tell with you because you're so casual in nature. Were you more relieved after you made that final putt or were you fired up on the inside about winning? It didn't look like you were going to jump in the water.
JASON DUFNER: Probably relieved a little bit. There's been good bit of pressure - not pressure but just people talking about, you know, "Why aren't you winning, why can't you close the deal", et cetera, et cetera, you know from friends, family, media, even people in my inner circle. Not in a negative way but, you know, when you're leading tournaments going into weekends and you're finishing 24th there's going to be some questions. So for me to get that kind of off my back, maybe this will jump-start me and, you know, get me to start believing that I can compete out here on a week to week basis and win some of these things.
You know it takes a lot of pressure off me. Obviously lot of different things with exemptions and money lists and FedEx Cup points and all that. I think it will be a lot - I feel a sense of relief now. Not that the season is over but I'm playing great golf. I got this win and I can kind of just focus on playing great golf now and not worry about winning a golf tournament.
Q. What did you hit into 18 -
JASON DUFNER: First time in regulation I had no stance. I knew that you could play from over there left of that bunker from the practice round. I tried to get a 3-iron up there. I knew I couldn't get it there. I felt it was a pretty easy pitch. In the playoff it was both 5-woods, kind of cut it into the wind.
MODERATOR: Thanks a lot Jason and congratulations on getting married next week. Thank you.
JASON DUFNER: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.