The 35-year-old golfer won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on April 29, 2012, in a sudden death playoff against Ernie Els. Three weeks later, he recorded his second victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship on a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole of the tournament.
Dufner’s road to the top started when he was 15 years old. Three years later, he took a shot at Division I competition as an uninvited walk-on to the Auburn golf team.
“I always allowed one walk-on qualifier each year,” said former Auburn men’s golf coach Mike Griffin. “I never wanted to allow a talented youngster slip through the cracks. Jason was one of the 15-18 guys to show up. As luck would have it, he came in and kicked the door down.”
After a successful career at the collegiate ranks, Dufner turned pro in 2000 as he joined the Nationwide Tour. He spent the next six years on the Nationwide Tours only winning twice, once at the BUY.com Wichita Open and once at the LaSalle Bank Open.
“It’s a progression,” Dufner said. “The PGA does a good job establishing the Nationwide Tour to help a lot of players get their feet wet and that was the truth for me. I played, practiced and learned from my experiences and without those years of inconstancy I would not be here today.”
Dufner earned his PGA Tour card in 2007, but failed to hold onto it. He returned to the PGA Tour in 2009, and in 2011 made his presence known by finishing second in the PGA Championship and the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Riding on his recent success, Dufner came in to 2012 determined to pick up where he finished off. Two wins and a second place finish at the Crowne Plaza Invitational has him at the top spot in the FedEx Cup rankings and No. 8 in the world.
“Coming off last year I took a lot of the things that I was doing right and came into this year with some unfinished business to take care of,” Dufner said. “It is a unique experience to sit back and see yourself at the No. 1 spot in points and earnings for the year.”
Giving back to the University that gave him his start, Dufner spent the week out in Los Angeles with the Auburn men’s golf team to help the team prepare for nationals. Play started Tuesday and will continue through Sunday.
“I have some experience at the Riviera Resort, so I have hope that these guys can take some of my notes and tips as they try to bring home the championship,” Dufner said. “I like to stay fairly involved with the team. I remember back in my days playing for Auburn there was a guy that was on tour that came around and helped us out when he could.”
Dufner’s caddie, Kevin Baile, said Jason is the kind of guy that loves to give back, especially to his university,
Dufner said he gives credit to the Auburn golf team for giving him a chance to be successful, credit that his former coach Griffin gives right back to him.
“I am so proud of him,” Griffin said. “He gives back to his team and most don’t realize how much he gives back to the University.
“Jason chose Auburn; Auburn didn’t choose him. For him to move his house and family here in Auburn means so much.”
Dufner will return to competition June 14-17 for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.