Dufner no flash in the pan

When Jason Dufner finished 2nd at the 2011 PGA Championship, I saw him as something of an oddball, flash in the pan.

When Jason Dufner with his wiggle, waggle pre-swing procedure finished second at the PGA Championship last year, I saw him as something of an oddball flash in the pan.

And this was only accentuated at the time by his loud complaint that the media spent so much time concentrating on the big name players (meaning Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy etc.), that too many players of real quality (meaning himself) never got a look in when it came to making the headlines..

But I – and, I am sure, a good many others – have been proved hopelessly wrong.

Dufner, who has the kind of face and hair style, I imagine, which could be fashioned into a great Circus clown, has seen to that in a no uncertain manner.

He underlined his quality as a top-level golfer on Sunday when he picked up his second highly respected US PGA Tour win in a month, this when he sank a 25-foot put at the 18th to win the Byron Nelson championship by a shot from Dickie Pride.

Coming just three weeks after his win over Ernie Els in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans play-off, Sunday’s triumph has propelled the 35-year-old former invisible journeyman right up there with the best into the sporting headlines – helped, of course, by the fact that he has majestically managed to sandwich a wedding to long-time girlfriend Amanda in between his first-ever PGA Tour victories.

Right now he is commanding as much and perhaps more publicity as any of the so-called big guns and surely will have learnt that simply being a good golfer is not enough to catch the attention of the sporting media. There are hordes of golfers in that category.

To make the headliners you have to be more than that; you have to be a winner.

That Dufner has started winning on the PGA Tour after a frustrating two-year, 163-start winless drought should be no surprise. Certainly not to those who took his close-run race last year with eventual PGA winner Keegan Bradley seriously.

After missing the cut in the season-opening Sony Open in Hawaii, perhaps to a chorus by some of “I told you so”, Dufner hasn’t missed a cut in his last 12 starts and, indeed, in his last eight tournaments, has lead or held a share of the lead in 10 of the 32 rounds he has played.

It is significant too that the 500 points he earned from Sunday’s win has rocketed him from 12th to first in the FedExCup standings with a total of 1,435 points – 40 points ahead of Hunter Mahan, the PGA Tour’s only other two-time winners so far this year.

In the games hardest school of golf, nobody gets into that position by chance, lest of all flash-in-the-panners.

But how does Dufner, a proud economics graduate of Auburn University, shape up statistically.

The season’s newest double winner is not the leader in any of the Tour’s stat categories, but he is well place in most as the middle of the 2012 season approaches.

Dufner’s 69.94 puts him in the top 12 behind the Tour’s scoring average leader Rory McIlory’s 69.40.

With a driving distance average of 290.9 he is only 62nd on the list of the Tour’s longest hitters, but perhaps more important, he makes up for this when it comes to driving accuracy and fairways hit. In this stat he is 6th (68.81%).

He also rates highly in greens hit in regulation where his 69.08 per cent of the time puts him in 13th place behind leaders Bubba Watson (74.31%) and Lee Westwood (73,48).

Dufner also scores well on the ‘proximity to the hole’ with approach shots list with an average distance of 33.10 feet. That puts him 5th.

Strangely putting hasn’t been one of his statistical strength. He has managed to nail some critical putts like the 24-footer at 18 on Sunday, but generally he comes well down the list in flat-stick stats.

For example, he currently stands at 65th on the list of least putts per hole where he is averaging 1.760 to category leader Webb Simpson’s 1,710.

But clearly putting stats are not the be-all and end-all in golf. Hitting the fairways and the greens and getting close to the pins can be equally as important – and for Dufner that certainly seems to be the case.

He is already an emerging force in US Golf. Heaven help his opponents if he can up his ante with his putter.

Perhaps a wiggle, waggle before he putts is the answer.

What’s in Jason Dufner’s bag?

In the meantime here is what Dufner carries in his Titleist staff bag:

Driver: Titleist 910 D2 (9.5 degree; Mitsubishi Ahina 60x shaft)

Fairway Woods: Titleist 910 F 3-wood (13.5 degree; Mitsubishi Ilima 80x shaft) and Titleist 906 F2 5-wood (18 degree; Grafalloy Prolite shaft)

Hybrid: Titleist 910 H (19 degree; Project X Hybrid shaft)

Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM4 (54 and 60 degree)

Putter: Scotty Cameron prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1