Fans of Jason Dufner who tuned in to the Golf Channel to watch his return from a neck injury a few weeks ago in the Perth International in Australia had to do a double-take.
If they recognized him, that is.
Not only did Dufner have his hair cut short, but he also had lost about 20 pounds since he withdrew from his title defense 11 weeks earlier after the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla in August.
“I need to take a serious look at my health and maybe make a better effort to be in better shape,” said Dufner, who is playing this week in the WGC-HSBC Champions on the fifth of six weeks in the early start to the 2014-15 PGA Tour season.
“If you don’t have your health out here, as you can see with a pretty prominent player (Tiger Woods) and myself, it’s pretty hard to be competitive out here.
“So in the end, I look forward to being really healthy for next season and getting through this season, and hopefully I can have some good results one way or another.”
Dufner also revealed that he was dealing with more than two bulging disks in his neck. When he left Valhalla, he said he wasn’t concerned about when he would play again but only with getting healthy.
The injuries led to a disappointing season in which Dufner finished in the top 10 only four times, eventually being forced to abandon his title defense at Valhalla before missing the PGA Tour playoffs and the Ryder Cup in Scotland.
“I had some issues in my shoulder, issues in my neck, some issues with muscle tightness which entrapped the nerves coming out of my neck, which gave me kind of a dead, numb arm,” said the 37-year-old Dufner, a late bloomer who has won three times on the PGA Tour since 2012. “But I am feeling better, so I’m going in the right direction.
“I was pretty much out of commission for about six to eight weeks. I didn’t do much of anything, just a lot of treatment. Little bit of strengthening for my shoulder, and then I slowly started to work on some other areas to get stronger, and then back into golf.”
In fact, he wasn’t much into golf, period, his or anyone else’s throughout his absence.
“I wasn’t too interested in golf or what was going on in the golfing world during that time period,” said Dufner, who had a good chance to be on the United States team at Gleneagles had he been healthy. “I didn’t watch one minute of the Ryder Cup. Followed it a little bit; had some friends on there.
“Got into a lot of different things. … I really enjoyed being at home (in Auburn, Ala.). Got to spend some time with my wife, with friends. Got to enjoy college football, which I like a lot.
“I got to experience some new things. I got into cooking. Been cooking a lot at home. Just doing different things you don’t get to do on the road. It was disappointing that I was injured, but it wasn’t miserable for me. I wasn’t dying at home, so to speak.”
Dufner, known as one of the best ball-strikers in golf over the past few seasons, previously admitted that putting was his least favorite part of the game. The time off also gave him time to focus on that area.
“Been working on my putting,” said Dufner, who tied for 23rd in Perth and 26th last week by finishing well on the weekend in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, the first two of four consecutive weeks he will play in Asia. “Some different stuff I’ve been doing. For me, the biggest thing would be putting, if I could take my putting to the next level.
“That was one nice thing in that stretch, I was able to commit an hour and a half, two hours a day almost to one of my weaknesses, which was putting. I’m excited about the direction I’ve been going with that.”
Now that would be unrecognizable, a svelte Duf who can putt.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Editor Tom LaMarre