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May 29, 2018

Jason Dufner

Dublin, Ohio

DOUG MILNE: Okay, we'll go ahead and get started. Like to welcome the defending champion of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, Jason Dufner. Thanks for joining us for a few minutes. We'll get a couple comments from you about being back here. I would imagine you have defended a number of TOUR titles.

JASON DUFNER: A couple, not a number.

DOUG MILNE: Some pretty significant ones but I would imagine coming back and defending at a place like Muirfield Village is probably a pretty special thing to you.

JASON DUFNER: Yeah, obviously defending any week is great because of what happened the prior year, so that's something to be proud of and excited about. There's 120 guys this week that are looking to be a champion, so I get to say that I did that last year and come back and defend and be part of the history of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, obviously with Jack Nicklaus, kind of hosting and being all that, that adds a little bit of a special part to it, to be tied in with him and have that type of relationship and just always feel like you're part of this event as the history of golf continues and past my playing days I'll always remember this week that I had last year. So it's exciting, we'll see how it goes.

DOUG MILNE: How about your game coming into the week? We know you had the top-5 finish at THE PLAYERS a few weeks ago. Are you feeling pretty good with the game coming in?

JASON DUFNER: Yeah, pretty good. It's kind of been a mixed bag of things. I felt like at Match Play I kind of turned the corner and was really happy with how my game was. And then I ended up playing poorly for about a month. Put the clubs up, didn't touch the clubs for about seven or eight days, went to Zurich, almost won. Played really well at Wells Fargo. Played really well at THE PLAYERS. So I kind of went with the put the clubs away in between PLAYERS and Colonial philosophy, and then last week missed the cut. So that's kind of a mixed bag. That's kind of how the game is sometimes. But I feel like my chances every week are pretty good for the most part and just kind of getting some things lined up, executing, thinking, being positive, thinking about your game and how you feel about it. That's always a big key for us is how the mental things are going week-in and week-out.

DOUG MILNE: We'll take a few questions. Thank you.

Q. I guess the field is great here every year, but this might be the best ever, I don't know, if you've noticed, but seems like every name, every face is here, eight or nine of the world's top-10. Have you noticed anything in particular that it might be even better?
JASON DUFNER: I haven't noticed, but usually this event draws a pretty good field. I've been in the top-50 in the world for a good bit now so I'm used to competing against those fields. I kind of expect it week-in and week-out and that's part of what we do, trying to beat the best in the world and trying to be the best in the world for that week. So I think it's a good challenge, it's great for the event, it's great for the city of Columbus, it's great for what Mr. Nicklaus is doing for his event to have a strong field and get the best players in the world. So I'm excited to be part of it and the people of Columbus will have something to be pretty excited about this week.

Q. What are your best memories from last year?
JASON DUFNER: Making that putt on the last hole.


Obviously, first two days were extraordinary, probably some of the best golf I've played in my career. Saturday was pretty forgettable. And then Sunday the back nine everything kind of clicked. It was pretty jammed up there on the leaderboard and I was able to kind of play really good nine holes, shot 32 on the last nine, pretty stress-free, except for that last hole. And I was able to separate myself a little bit. You always feel good about being able to finish like that. I wish I could do that more often in rounds of golf.

Then, obviously, shaking Mr. Nicklaus's hand, being part of the trophy presentation and all that will always be good memories of that week.

Q. Just wondering wearing a Save The Crew hat. How that came about and if you're familiar with that cause?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, a little bit. I got a sponsorship this week for a hat. We decided to come up with some Columbus and Ohio-themed deals for this week. Just defending champion and being from Ohio and obviously, the Save The Crew is the MLS team here, they're kind of going through a thing with relocation and the owner is trying to take them to Austin. People here are really passionate about soccer. I wouldn't say I'm extremely passionate about soccer, but I can identify with what they're going through, being from Cleveland, losing the Browns, I think that was in the early '90s. So just kind of showing some support. We'll have a couple different Columbus, Ohio-themed hats going on and obviously the hat thing with me has been pretty popular this week, so it just lined up good.

Q. I seem to recall when you shot 77 last year on Saturday you went out to the range and hit balls, mostly to vent. Is that about right?
JASON DUFNER: A little bit. As a golfer you just kind of try and figure out what's going to make you most comfortable the next day. I felt like at that moment it was something that I needed to do.

Q. Don't leave the course angry?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah. I mean sometimes I leave the course angry. Last Friday I left the course pretty angry.

Q. You didn't play the next day?
JASON DUFNER: Didn't need to play, yeah. So I think that as a guy who's been out here for 13 or 14 years you figure out different things that work and don't work. Thursday, Friday were so good, and then Saturday was such a disappointment. I just felt like I needed to kind of hit the reset button and get that out of me, so that I could compete and play well the next day.

Q. Any idea what your swing speed was on the range?
JASON DUFNER: Who knows. Probably like 116. That's pretty high for me. Old guy.

Q. When it comes to emotion, and particularly anger or frustration, how do you manage that on the golf course and is that something that has evolved over time for you?
JASON DUFNER: A little bit. I think you would say that I internalize it pretty well. And then externalize it when I'm away from people probably, on my own time. But I think playing the game of golf can be extremely frustrating for everybody. I think if you talk to any of the pros and best in the world, there's been times where there's been a lot of frustration and doubt and anger and all these things, so it's a natural emotion. I think that some guys deal with it better, some guys don't deal with it as well. For me it just seems to be an internal thing, which maybe isn't always the best because you beat yourself up a little bit internally. But I think golfers -- I've said this a lot before, they're extremely resilient to be able to move forward and past things. That's just part of it. A lot of things don't linger very long with me, as far as playing bad or having disappointment. And unfortunately the game of golf, that's just part of it is disappointment and anger, we're not winning very often out here.

Q. You ever trashed a hotel room?
JASON DUFNER: No, I don't go that far. I usually give myself about 30 minutes and then I'm over it.

Q. If I recall last year you were employing some new things with your putting approach and so forth and I'm wondering just have you been able to hang on to those, to that approach and how has it worked out? I mean obviously it, week-to-week you never know, but?
JASON DUFNER: I started working with a guy named Mike Bentley toward the end of last year. He works with a couple different guys out here. I've been really happy with my putting. My stats look really well. Week-to-week it's a little indifferent, but over the course of the year I think I've been doing really well with it. He's real big on posture and pre-stroke alignment, posture, stability, stuff like that. So it's been awhile that I've been working on it, six, eight months. I feel like it's starting to become more natural, but there's times that obviously I wish it was better than others. But I like where I'm at. I think I'm physically and mentally the best I've ever been with that part of my game.

Q. I wanted to -- while it was fresh in your mind I wanted to ask you something about the PLAYERS and the 17th hole and just there's so much that's discussed about that hole and I'm just curious your thoughts. Is it a good hole, a great hole, an average hole, a bad hole?
JASON DUFNER: I think it's a pretty good hole for the situation and where it's, where it kind of sits in the round. A lot can be determined. It's a pretty easy hole for me. I've never hit it in the water there (knock on wood.) So 36 in a row, so.


Q. That's pretty good, actually.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, so but I kind of like it. If you hit a good shot there's some hole locations where the ball will feed in and you can get a chance at a birdie or we have seen some hole-in-ones. And then obviously we have seen some disasters. Would I want that to be the 17th hole of every tournament? Probably not. But I think for THE PLAYERS Championship and that tournament, I think it's a good --

Q. You think it's a fair hole?
JASON DUFNER: I think it's extremely fair. If it was half the size it would probably borderline on a little ridiculous, but it's a pretty big piece of real estate you got to hit there.

Q. And what are the range of clubs that you have hit there over the years?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, anywhere from a sand wedge to a 9-iron. Never hit more than a 9-iron. Probably expect that to change when we move to March.

Q. Winds are different?
JASON DUFNER: We'll get a north wind, probably, and a little bit cooler and maybe a little damper air and maybe I'll actually hit one in the water, but I hope not. It's a pretty easy hole.

Q. There's very few people that are 36 for 36. What are your keys?
JASON DUFNER: For me it's like a perfect number. So if it's downwind it's a perfect gap wedge. And then into the wind it's a perfect 9-iron. And then if there's no wind it's kind of a pitching wedge. I don't play extremely aggressive on it. I try to just kind of go to the middle and if the ball works out to get close to the hole it works close to the hole.

Last Sunday, the last time I played it on Sunday, I went after that pin a little bit on the right, but you also have a little bit of room. So it's just kind of extremely comfortable, I don't have a lot of second guessing, because I know it's either this condition, it's this, and I just kind of play off of that.

Q. You're not superstitious of course by saying your 36 out of 36?
JASON DUFNER: I keep knocking on the wood up here. I saw that -- I mean I kind of knew that I hadn't hit any in, but I didn't know how far along I was. And then Saturday the -- one of the telecasts that is overseas showed me that I had been 35 for 35 and I said I appreciate that going into Sunday.


But I was successful on Sunday also.

Q. This golf course, what's the hardest thing about this golf course, if you're going to win this tournament?
JASON DUFNER: Tee shots are pretty generous, so kind of check that off the box. It's not a huge requirement to drive it straight. I think distance can play a factor because it brings shorter clubs in. But I think it's mostly a second-shot golf course, so I think you need to be on your irons, being able to hit the different shots, you got a lot of different angles that Mr. Nicklaus has presented to you on the golf course. A little bit of positioning off the tee because the better you can be in position to some hole locations the better the angle is, so the easier the shot may play.

But you get a hole like 12, it's pretty narrow, you got a weird angle there, especially to those back right pins, so you got to be able to control your ball with a little bit of a fade. A lot of the hole locations, a lot of the second shots play to kind of a fade bias, where if you can move the ball a little bit left-to-right it will make it a little bit easier for you. So I think it's a second-shot golf course.

And then putting. The greens are fast this week and they have a good bit of natural slope. I don't want to say they're real slopey, but they have tilt, so you get a lot of putts inside of that 10-foot range that kind of have a good amount of speed but also a good amount of break. So being able to control your speed and match your lines is pretty important.

Q. The hardest hole for you?
JASON DUFNER: I think you got to go up on No. 12. No. 12's pretty difficult. You get some wind on that hole it can play extremely difficult. You have water hazards there, the bunkers aren't any picnic, and it's hard to get on that green. Last year those -- that right pin position was giving guys problems. For me I had a perfect fit on the number, so I knew that I could be confident and the wind was kind of pushing that way and I ended up making birdie. So I think it's one of those courses, like you need to be aggressive and risky because it really pays off. And if you play conservative and you miss it, it's just as bad as playing aggressive and missing it, if that makes sense.

Q. Ever hit in the water there?
JASON DUFNER: On 12? Yeah, I have. That hole's a lot tougher than 17 at Sawgrass.


Q. That's a lot of club. That thing plays 180 something?
JASON DUFNER: It's anywhere from an 8-iron to a 6-iron for most of the guys in the field.

Q. You played a lot of non-tournament golf with Tiger. How much tournament golf have you played and what's that like dealing with the distractions? Do you get more motivated by it? Just that whole deal.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I played a good bit of tournament golf with him. I played with him the first time was at the Australian Masters, I think in 2009. We played the third round together. So that was my first experience. So we had like the whole golf course following us, which was all 25,000 people, which was pretty interesting. But I played a good bit. I've played some Majors with him. We've played some casual rounds, so I'm pretty comfortable with him. I probably have maybe six or eight competitive rounds with him, so I kind of know what to expect. Obviously I've played with a lot of guys with big crowds, so you just get comfortable with it, you kind of try to figure it out, what works for you. Obviously the crowds have been pretty excited that he's back out this year and there's been some reports about how people are handling that and talk about it, but I just try to stay out of it and do my thing.

Q. Do you personally get more pumped up?
JASON DUFNER: No, I don't get pumped up.


I mean it will be fun. Obviously Justin won last week, Tiger's the hot trending topic right now with coming back and playing well, so there will be a lot of attention on the group, which will be fun. And we'll see, it's just a golf tournament and these are guys I'm comfortable with and been around a lot and look forward to playing.

Q. Knowing Tiger at whatever level you do and especially as a fan of what he's done for the game, etcetera, I'm just, I would be curious if you went back a year ago this week and what was going on with him, could you have imagined where he is now?
JASON DUFNER: I mean I think so. There's a reason why he did what he did before he had the injuries and had these setbacks. People like this don't come along very often, so they're always capable of doing amazing things. I didn't know the ins and outs of what was going on a year ago, but I spent some time with him in the off-season this year. It looked like he was feeling good. I always maintained that if his health was good his golf game would come along. So I know that he's probably felt like he's come a long way in 12 months so I think it's great for the game, I know it's good for him. I know he wants kind of a last shot at things, kind of a three- or four- or five-year run to accomplish some more things in the game of golf and complete that come back.

Q. I wonder if you guys as players think the way we do, or the public does, that when you -- we didn't know what was going on either, but when you see mug shots and you see incidents like that and it feels like a low point, are we ever going to see this guy -- do you guys think the same way or do you know more than us?
JASON DUFNER: I didn't feel like he was done by any stretch. I think he was, I felt like he was going through some times that weren't the best for him, but it's always -- you can always turn things around, I think. Especially for a guy like that. It seems like it's so easy for him to be in one space and then 12 months later be in another. So I always felt like if he could get healthy, which was the big thing to me, the golf would come along. I saw a lot of good stuff in November and -- October, November, December. I spent some time in south Florida that time of year and I was like really impressed with where he was at and take a little bit of time to knock the rust off, but.

Q. Did you play a lot of rounds with him?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I mean not like every day, but a couple times a week for two months or so. So I got to see where he was at and how he was feeling and what he was talking about and how he was moving and those were all good indications. I kind of saw the same things a year ago before when he attempted the comeback for I guess it would be 2017. But then obviously he had some problems with his health there.

Q. Did you see a difference between the two years?
JASON DUFNER: No, they were pretty similar, to me. I just think that he ran into some health issues at the beginning of 2017, kind of around Torrey Pines and when he went to Dubai and all that. So I think with him it's just health related. If he could feel good and his back would cooperate, the golf will come around. I think he'll, he's had some really good close calls to winning a couple of times. I think he'll get one. Just takes a little bit of time.

Q. When you come in here as the defending champion and have already won this tournament now, did it change your mentality, your mindset at all? Is the pressure off a little bit? Can you go and play the course a little more relaxed knowing, hey, I already won this, maybe gravy from here or does that not even enter the mind?
JASON DUFNER: No, not really. To me it's obviously I'm defending, so that has a little bit of a special feeling for me, just from what I did last year. But I don't take much for granted out here. I know things can change very quickly. I'm looking forward to playing this week and trying to play my best golf. I'm going to do the things from now until Thursday to get me ready to play and then we'll see how it goes. We all want to play good every week. It doesn't happen every week, but I try to stay pretty level about how I think about events and tournaments and try to look at it from a long-term perspective, that if I do things I need to do to prepare and be ready to play, I'll have good results.

Q. One more about Tiger. If he continues on this arc, would you pick him for the Ryder Cup?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I think he's playing good enough to be part of that team. I've always contested with the Ryder Cup. You could take any of those guys that are in the top-25 or soon plug them in and probably have the same results. So I would have no problem, if he keeps trending the way he is and having good finishes, I think he should be in the mix. He's got pretty good history. Obviously you would love to have him be a part of that event for a lot of different reasons, but I think if he's in the top-25 as far as the points go, I think that's a realistic opportunity for him to play. He can contribute to the team and be part of it. And he brings some experience that they probably need. We got a lot of young guys that are on that team that are on it now and I think a little bit of that mix will help out the team.

Q. What made you laugh when you said a lot different reasons?
JASON DUFNER: Well just obviously the people at the PGA of America and the Ryder Cup would love to have Tiger Woods.


-- in the Ryder Cup. I mean I get it. I get how the media thing works and viewership and all that.

Q. He's at least going to be driving a cart though.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, but obviously as we have seen with television now and Tiger coming back, it's kind of spiked our ratings some and interest and I'm sure it would do the same for the Ryder Cup.

Q. Probably would. One last thing. If you were to play a word association game, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you here U.S. Open?
JASON DUFNER: Tough. Should be tough. Last year it wasn't as tough. Challenging.

Q. Do you think it's gotten away from it?
JASON DUFNER: I think a little bit from time to time. We'll see how it goes with Shinnecock. I heard that they have expanded the fairways a little bit, which isn't my favorite thing as far as the U.S. Open setup goes, but I just think it should be challenging to all aspects of the game. Driving the ball, iron play, short game, putting.

Q. Do the other Majors do that?
JASON DUFNER: I think Augusta does that pretty well. PGA Championship is probably closest to a TOUR event as far as setup goes, but it still can be challenging, depending upon venue. Open Championship's kind of a curve ball because you get the weather conditions that play a factor. I just think like The Open Championship, the thing I've missed about it the most is the rough aspects, they have gone away from tight fairway, they have gone to wider fairways and then around the greens they got more fairway, level, chipping and pitching and a lot of run off. I just like that kind of three- to four- to five-inch rough around the greens, firm, fast greens.

Q. You don't like the run off?
JASON DUFNER: No. Too many options. I get confused. I don't know which one to pick.


But that's just me. I grew up watching the tough U.S. Opens at Brookline and Pebble Beach where par was a really, really good score. You had to play really well. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. I've talked to Mike Davis about this, so I'm not afraid about my comments. So we'll see. I mean they got some great venues for the next four years that are pretty traditional, so I'm hoping that we get closer to that traditional U.S. Open.

Q. A lot of runoff at Shinnecock.
JASON DUFNER: That's what I've heard, so a lot of options. So we'll see. I mean I think that -- I applaud him for trying some different golf courses. Obviously he's trying to find some golf courses that in the future can be the historic venues. Maybe some of them worked out, some of them haven't worked out, but we got a good run coming up.

DOUG MILNE: All right, Jason, thanks for your time as always we appreciate it.

JASON DUFNER: Yeah, appreciate it.

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