Jason Dufner on his first win, why he plays well at majors, and keeping your cool on 17 at Sawgrass

Thursday May 10th, 2012
Jason Dufner earned his first career PGA Tour win at the Zurich Classic.
Fred Vuich / SI

Jason Dufner flirted with leaderboards for more than a year before securing his breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans two weeks ago. His victory party was pretty special as well. The following Saturday, the laid-back 35-year-old exchanged wedding vows in Auburn, Ala., with his long-time fiancée Amanda Boyd Dufner.  
 
On Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, Dufner was having a casual long-drive contest with Ryuji Imada and Dufner was absolutely crushing it. Dufner, who is sneaky funny, joked he had a case of "beast-itis" and mockingly flexed his arms like a body-builder.
 
So you have a case of beast-itis?
No, I don't have anything going. I wish. I'm getting older, but I worked out a lot this off-season -- trying to lose some weight and  get a little more speed. I picked up about 3 mph, which translates to about eight to 12 yards, so I've seen a little bit of progress in that area.
 
You were married this past Saturday. How's your honeymoon treating you so far?
It's great [sarcasm alert]. I've been at the golf course and Amanda has been hanging out by herself every day.
 
Are you going to take wedding pictures on the 17th green?
No, we got all those taken care of on Saturday. I don't think I can get her out in her dress again.
 
What were the highlights from the wedding?
I think the highlight was everyone having a good time, which was important for us. We wanted to get married in front of our family and friends, and then with the reception, we wanted everybody to have a good time. Everything turned out well big-picture-wise and everyone drank a lot of alcohol and ate a lot of food, so it was fun.
 
You look like you're very calm -- almost aloof -- out there, but you've been in some really nerve-wracking situations. What's really going on in Jason Dufner's head?
Probably similar emotions to what every other player has out here. You're fighting and trying to be successful on the golf course and keep a level head out there. Everybody knows -- especially when you're close to the lead -- what's going on. So for me, exterior-wise it seems like I come off more placid, more relaxed than others and don't show quite what's going on inside, but I'm sure there are similar emotions.
 
What happens after you get your first PGA Tour win?
It was a little hectic. Obviously you have a lot commitments with sponsors for events and people are pulling you in that direction and this direction, so you don't quite get to celebrate as much as you'd like with family and friends, but it's all been good. I flew home and then had a bunch of wedding stuff going on that week.
I’ve had a lot of disappointment and heartache, so it's nice to get over that hurdle and get that first win and hopefully it'll propel me to being more comfortable.
 
You’ve had a lot of close calls in the last 16 months or so -- enough to be in the “best player without a Tour win” conversation. How does it feel to get that monkey off your back?
It's been good. I’ve gotten a lot of fan support, player support and media support. Everyone has been real congratulatory. I can -- I don't want to say putting winning aside -- but now I can focus on my game and take that pressure off. Nobody can say, "You've never won on Tour, why can't you win on Tour?, etc."
 
That had to have worn on you a little bit.
It didn't really get to me too bad. I felt like I could win out here and there were some questions as to maybe why I wasn't and I tried to address some of those issues and some of that worked out in New Orleans and hopefully that'll propel me to some more victories.
 
What was the secret in New Orleans?
I think for me the secret was more patience, to be honest with you. Not focusing on winning so much and getting more involved with the process of winning.
 
You have an excellent record at courses designed by Pete Dye, including here at Sawgrass.
I have a lot of good finishes at Mr. Dye's golf courses. Me and my caddie were talking about that and I don't know what it is, but I have very good feelings when I step on his golf courses. Even at Nationwide Tour events -- I played a couple of those -- and Harbour Town, here, TPC Louisiana, Whistling Straits -- I can't put my finger on it, but I seem to play some pretty good golf on all these courses he's built.
 
You placed sixth here last year so you must be feeling pretty confident.
It's definitely a good build-up from last year. I feel comfortable. I spend some time in the off-season down here. I'm very fortunate to have this facility to practice. It's only about five hours to drive from Auburn, where I live. I've come down and practiced and played this golf course numerous times, not just in competition. I think it's my fifth Players, so I feel good here.
 
What are your feelings on the 17th hole at Sawgrass?
I don't mind it. The pin and hole locations can be pretty difficult as far as how big the surface areas, but in general, the green is pretty big and you're only hitting 9-iron or pitching wedge. I've had pretty good success on that hole. Not to jinx myself, but I've never hit it in the water on 17. I've never even seen a ball go into the water on 17 in my group. So that means probably every ball will go in the water this week. Thanks for bringing that up. [Laughter]
 
You've had good finishes at majors and this one is an "almost" major -- why do you think that is?
More consistent players seem to be rewarded in majors. I feel like I'm pretty consistent off the tee, pretty consistent with my iron play, and I'm content and happy with making pars and that does pretty well. I take some chances here and there when you need to, but limiting your bogeys is a big focus for any major we're playing. It doesn't seem like anyone is running away with it. If you shoot a couple under every day, you're going to be in pretty good position and that kind of fits my game.
 
Tell me a joke.
[Laughter] A joke? I don't have any clean jokes, all the jokes I have are dirty. You put me on the spot! I don't have any good ones!
 
I've heard stories about your sense of humor, so I'm just trying to get a sample. Back there at the range, you were throwing around some funny quips.
I've got a lot friendships out here that I've developed over the years through amateur and college golf, and the Nationwide Tour. We all bust on each other pretty good and that keeps it light. Nobody's head gets too big when you're playing in our group. Like with Ryuji and Charley Hoffman, but Ryuji doesn't dish it as well as Charley.
 
Phil Mickelson was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame earlier this week. He felt a little strange about it since he's still playing. What do you think?
It's different compared to other sports. Guys are usually retired and there's a wait period, but with golf, Phil is going to be in the Hall of Fame whether you do it now or whenever, so I think it's good for the PGA Tour and Phil and the other guys who are still playing that have been inducted. It gives a little buzz and hopefully one day I'll be there and not worrying about whether I'm playing or retired when they do induct me.
 
How are you going to get the Waggle in the HOF?
[Laughter] I don't know, but the Waggle needs to be in the Hall.

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