Meet Jason Dufner
In becoming just the second native of Ohio to win the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide – Memorial Founder and Host Jack Nicklaus, who did it twice – Jason Dufner re-established himself as a top-tier player on the PGA TOUR. But the quiet Cleveland native still is relatively unknown, even though he already has a major championship and has played for America in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup – the latter in 2013 right here at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Dufner, who goes by “Duf” because just about every golfer and caddie has a nickname, has won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. He didn’t take the traditional route to golfing success, but he found it nevertheless because he has turned himself into one of the game’s best ball strikers.
Born on March 24, 1977 in Cleveland, Dufner and his family moved to Fort Lauderdale when he was 14 years old. Soon he was into golf and played at St. Thomas Aquinas High School starting in his sophomore year. Though he was not heavily recruited out of high school, he nonetheless enjoyed a fine collegiate career after walking on at Auburn University, where he earned All-Southeastern Conference and All-American honors.
He turned professional in 2000, and wouldn’t take no for an answer in getting to the PGA TOUR despite five trips to Q-School, the last one in 2008. After bouncing between the Web.com Tour – where he won twice, in 2001 and ’06 – and the big leagues, he finally stuck as a PGA TOUR fixture with a $2 million-plus earnings season in 2009 and an 11th place finish in the FedExCup competition.
He nearly broke through for his first major in 2011 at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, but he fell in a three-hole playoff to Keegan Bradley. Two years later at Oak Hill he got the job done, riding a second-round 63, which at the time tied the major championship record and set the course record, to a memorable two-stroke victory over Jim Furyk. His closing 2-under 68 was good for a 10-under 270 total, four strokes better than Nicklaus’ winning total in the 1980 PGA at Oak Hill.
At the time, Dufner became the sixth player to win a major with a round of 63, joining Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Raymond Floyd, Nicklaus and Johnny Miller. Henrik Stenson joined them with his British Open triumph in 2016 at Royal Troon. Only Miller and Stenson have not won the Memorial Tournament.
Ranked as high as No. 6 in the world, which was in 2012 after winning his first two PGA TOUR titles, Dufner finished the 2016-17 FedExCup regular season No. 32 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
He was ranked 20th in the FedExCup points race with two top-10 finishes. Of course, one of those was his victory in the Memorial Tournament in June, when he rallied from a third-round 77 to beat Rickie Fowler and Anirban Lahiri by three strokes with a 13-under 275 total.
Like Nicklaus, Dufner, known for his reserved demeanor, dedicates a portion of his time trying to make the lives of young people better. In Duf’s case, his Jason Dufner Foundation, according to his website, “focuses on ending childhood hunger in Lee County, Alabama, through partnerships with local, regional and national organizations.” The foundation provides weekend meals for more than 1,200 throughout the school year and more than 500 children during the summer. The Foundation is also active with End Childhood Hunger in Alabama (ECHA), which is a statewide task force formed to help raise awareness of charitable funds.