Dufner gives pep talk, tries to win one for Auburn

By Jason SobelJanuary 10, 2014, 1:12 am

HONOLULU – The consummate Auburn superfan, Jason Dufner didn’t attend some lavish party or hit up a local sports bar for Monday night’s BCS Championship Game. Instead, he watched in his hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua with wife Amanda, intent on catching every second of the contest. True to his low-key nature, when the Tigers lost in the final seconds he didn’t yell or throw things or trash the room.

“It’s just kind of like I do with golf,” he said. “You take about 20-30 minutes and then get over it and take a shower and get ready for bed.”

Actually, he did one other thing, too.

He gave a pep talk to Auburn coach Gus Malzahn.

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“I talked to him right after the game, and I’ve talked to him a couple times since,” he confided. “Just trying to be encouraging because they were pretty down about how the game ended, disappointed. It's hard [when] you have such a great season. I know all those guys, and the coaches felt they were going to win that game.”

If it sounds backward for the laconic golfer to be offering a rah-rah speech to the football coach, well, that’s for good reason.

But in some ways, it also makes perfect sense.

Dufner is fond of reminding anyone who will listen that winning 1 or 2 percent of your starts at the highest level of professional golf will likely result in a Hall of Fame induction someday. It’s something he’s reminded Malzahn about over the past few days.

“I’ve got a lot of experience with failure out here,” explained Dufner, who has three wins in 199 previous PGA Tour starts. “I told him to take it from a guy who loses way more than he wins. You'll get over it and learn from it and you'll be better because of it.”

He also feels a certain responsibility to get his alma mater back on the winning track. The day after his football team’s loss, Dufner posted a series of tweets in which he wrote, “Disappointment and heartache are always part of sports. ... In times of defeat I have always learned more about myself and what it takes to win at a high level. ... My chance for redemption and reward starts this week.”

Dufner started that chance for Auburn redemption with a 3-under 67 at the Sony Open, leaving him in solid position after the opening round.

Not that he was overly enthused about it.

“I drove it bad, pretty lucky to shoot the score I did,” he admitted. “I had a good week last week. I hit it really good. Played a little bit better on the last day, so feeling good, and then today just couldn’t get it going.”

Any football coach can understand an inability to “get it going,” especially one whose defense struggled to stop Florida State’s offense during the final drive of that game. The comparison ends, though, when you consider Dufner’s chances at a victory are seemingly endless, while his team is left to ponder its defeat for the next eight months.

“They’ll get over it once they get back into their off-season routine,” he said. “It's easy for us. Like I said, we just have another week. Next week is right around the corner. But they've got to wait until September.”

There’s still time for Dufner to put an Auburn victory on the board – and despite underwhelming himself during the opening round, his score has him right in the mix for that possibility come Sunday afternoon.

While he obviously wasn’t part of the team that lost on Monday – though he did offer a midseason locker room speech that appeared to rally the players – this is part of what Dufner termed the “chance for redemption and reward” in those tweets.

So far he’s been able to help by speaking with Malzahn, relating his personal failures in golf and encouraging the coach to keep pushing forward.

“This is just the beginning of what he has in plan for Auburn football,” Dufner said. “This is just all part of it.”

Pep talks are one thing. Dufner knows, though, if he really wants to cheer up War Eagle Nation after its recent loss, the best thing he can do this week is the one thing his team came agonizingly short of accomplishing on Monday night.

Win the title.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."