Jason Dufner | Player Profile | Nedbank Golf Challengeon October 20, 2011
American Jason Dufner has a remarkably simple piece of advice for any parent who thinks they have a golfing prodigy on their hands. “Just let your child find their own way. I played a lot of sports growing up and didn’t get real interested in golf until I was 14. You can’t pressure kids into doing things they don’t really want to do. If they like it they’ll practice on their own. Then you know there’s something there.”
That “something there” first began to show itself in Dufner when the family moved to Fort Lauderdale in Florida when he was 14, and he took up golf. Perhaps the crowning glory of his amateur career came in 1998, when Dufner made it to the final of the US Amateur Public Links at Torrey Pines. Here he came up against South Africa’s Trevor Immelman, who beat him 3 and 2.
After graduating from Auburn University with a degree in Economics, Dufner turned professional. However, he struggled early in his career to make an impact. He started his career on the Nationwide Tour, but only won twice in five years. In 2006 he finished eighth on the Nationwide Tour’s money list, earning his card for the PGA Tour’s 2007 season. But he failed to retain his card, and also missed out at Tour School. He returned to Tour School in 2008 and finished 11th to see him back on the PGA Tour in 2009. That year he finished in the top 10 six times, including a second place in the Deutsche Bank Championship in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Dufner finished the season in 11th place on the FedEx Cup standings and 33rd on the Tour’s money list. The following season was not as successful, but he did earn a fifth-place finish in the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. And he was only two strokes away from making it into the playoff.
A maiden PGA Tour title beckoned in the 2011 Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he finished tied for the lead with Mark Wilson on 18 under after 72 holes. But he was eventually beaten by Wilson’s birdie on the second hole of the playoff. But his biggest moment came in the 2011 PGA Championship. Dufner went into the final round tied for the lead with Brendan Steele. He played superb golf and was five clear before a run of bogeys on 15, 16 and 17. His nearest challenger Keegan Bradley birdied 16 and 17 to take the clubhouse lead on eight under.
Dufner then parred the 18th to force the playoff, which Bradley eventually won. “You know, I don’t think about it too much,” Dufner said of the experience. “I thought about it for maybe a day or two after it happened and then I was over it. I feel like I played some pretty good golf.” “I don’t feel like I was nervous. I knew what was at stake. I was confident with my game but just didn’t quite execute a couple of shots coming in.” It helped that his university’s football coach invited him around on the Monday afterwards, and he walked into the auditorium to a standing ovation from the football team he supports. “You wouldn’t expect a 320-pound defensive lineman to be watching golf on Sunday, but they were,” said Dufner.
Yet despite the collapse at the PGA Championship, Dufner was not willing to let it affect him or his plans. And he has a very refreshing take on his career.
“I just play golf. I love playing golf. I love the competition, and I want to be as good as I can be. If that’s 20th in the world with no majors, or first in the world with 10 majors, or never to win a Tour event, I’ll be fine with it.”
Sun City could be just the kind of relaxed atmosphere to reward an equally relaxed player like Dufner.
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