Jason Dufner and Jack Nicklaus 2017 Memorial Tournament

the Memorial TournamentIf there is such a thing as a pro’s pro, the Cleveland-born Jason Dufner — the only other Ohioan to win the Memorial Tournament besides Jack Nicklaus — is it.

“Duf” is well-liked by peers, and smart. One of the smartest things he’s done recently was to stay with Ricky Fowler in Jupiter, Florida, last winter. The stated goal was to work on his game, but as he hung out with and played matches against 20-somethings Fowler and Justin Thomas, he did something else: He rekindled his passion.

“It was good to be around those guys, they’re excited. They’re passionate. They’re working hard at it. They want to play good. They’re hungry. They want to win tournaments.”

Using a breathing trick he says he picked up while reading about military snipers, Dufner has been better on the greens this year, but at Muirfield Village he was both good and bad. No putt looked like a sure thing, not even his 2 foot, 9 inch birdie putt on 17 Sunday. Dufner wiggled in the short putt to get to 13-under par and give himself a two-shot cushion over Fowler going to 18.

Dufner drove into the right rough, and after the second storm delay of the afternoon, chopped out, wedged onto the green, and drained his 32-foot, 7-inch par putt, pumping his fist.

The champion was a study in resilience. He twice erased bogeys with birdies on the very next hole on the front nine. Then he stopped making bogeys at all, seizing control on the back nine.

“I’ve always been a fighter, especially since I’ve turned professional,” Dufner said. “Doing this hasn’t come easy for me. There’s been a lot of struggles and a lot of setbacks. I didn’t come straight out of college and play the PGA Tour. It took me almost ten years to get out here. Took me another two after that to win and actually get to where I felt comfortable.”

Two weeks ago, Dufner finished T13 at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He figured he would have a good tournament at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational at Colonial, which is a course that fits his point-to-point control game. Alas, he missed the cut. He was “pissed,” he said, and more determined than ever to get into contention at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, a course he wasn’t even sure he liked until he played the 2013 Presidents Cup here.

Dufner did a lot more than get in contention. At 40, he’s still got plenty of fight.

— By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM. Full story here >

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