Inside the Ropes Jason “Dufnering” Dufner
By TOM LaMARRE
The Sports Xchange
Unfortunately for Jason Dufner, the most excitement he’s caused this year came from what has become known as “Dufnering.”Dufner, who had a breakthrough season last year on the PGA Tour at the age of 35, was making an appearance at a youth community center in Dallas late in March when a staffer took a picture of him seemingly zoned out while sitting on the floor during a relaxation period. The staffer posted the picture on the Internet and it went viral. “What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing,” Dufner explained.
” … Just caught me at a perfect time. The funny thing about it is the photo taken represents how I act all the time. It was a sheer moment of Jason Dufner by whoever captured the moment for the 30 seconds I checked out.”Since then, PGA Tour pros including Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Brandt Snedeker have posted pictures of themselves “Dufnering,” as have fans dressed to look like Duf. You can find them all on Twitter. Dufner said the best one he has seen is of “a guy who was on a transport plane in the military and they dropped the bottom part (of the plane) out and they were about 20,000 feet in the air and he was doing it right on the back end of the plane. “After losing in a playoff to Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, Dufner shed his journeyman status and became a star last year, starting when he captured the Zurich Classic of New Orleans by beating Ernie Els in a playoff. Then, after getting married, he came back a few weeks later to win the Byron Nelson Championship and seemed to be headed to another victory in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial before shooting 74 in the final round and finishing second behind Zach Johnson. Dufner capped his year by playing in the Ryder Cup, posting a 3-1 record, including a 4-and-2 victory over Peter Hanson of Sweden, one of only three United States victories in singles as the Europeans regained the trophy at Medinah. “I think a couple things happened,” said Dufner, who is back at Colonial this week. “I was close to winning a major, the PGA, lost that in the playoff. After that, that gave me a lot of confidence to go out and play well no matter what the events were, if they were majors or global events or just PGA Tour events. “From a physical standpoint, I feel like I’ve really worked hard on my golf game. I’ve been very consistent with my practice, same focus on what I’m trying to get better at now for about four and a half years. Same with the preparation. I’m diligent about having the same routine for about four years now.
“And being consistent with that practice and that preparation has given me a lot of confidence that when I show up at events, I feel like I’m going to play good week-in and week-out no matter where I might be playing that week.” Although Dufner has played well at times this year, his best golf came when he tied for ninth in both the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on the Middle East Swing of the European Tour in January. Duf doesn’t believe it’s because he’s trying to live up to expectations, of his own or of others, after last season. “I’m not sure,” said Duf, whose best finish on the PGA Tour this season is a tie for 12th in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. “I’m kind of going through it right now. Not much experience with it. I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’ve added any pressure on myself. “I’ve had some opportunities to play overseas. That put me a little bit behind because that cut my schedule here on the PGA Tour. I played in a lot of bad weather, wind. Got into a position where I wasn’t really happy with where my golf swing was. “But I think I’ve turned the page and kind of going in the right direction.” Dufner tied for 20th in the Masters and seemed headed toward a high finish at the Players Championship before shooting 80 in the final round to slide 49 spots to a tie for 62nd. Actually, that’s been the story of his season, the Sunday blues. Dufner has been in position to contend or even win more than a few times before finishing badly.
His final-round scoring average is 72.56 and he hasn’t broken 70 on Sunday in eight tries on the PGA Tour this season. “I played pretty decent golf,” said Dufner, who admits that putting is his least favorite part of the game, and it shows, as he is averaging 29.46 putts per round. “I haven’t had a realistic chance to win in any of the events I played this year. “Just one round kind of slips away shooting 74, 75, that kind of gets you behind the eight ball. But I’ve had a lot of good play. I feel like my game’s coming around. I’m just trying to figure out how to put four good rounds together to score a good score for the week. ” Possibly all he needs is a little less “Dufnering” on Sundays.