Dufner (66) slowly returning to form after injury


DUBLIN, Ohio – Jason Dufner is known for his precise iron play, but he earned an early spot on the leaderboard at the Memorial thanks to some long bombs on the greens.

Dufner made a 65-foot birdie on No. 6, then followed with a 60-foot eagle on No. 15. Despite a double bogey on No. 18, Dufner opened with a 6-under 66 at Muirfield Village that put him within two shots of Hideki Matsuyama and Bo Van Pelt.

“Picked up three (strokes) there,” Dufner told a Tour media official of his two lengthy makes. “Today I made some long ones and missed some short ones.”

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Dufner finished T-8 last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, but that was his first top-10 finish since the WGC-HSBC Champions in November. Dufner battled injuries at the tail end of last season, notably withdrawing in defense of his PGA Championship title, and he faced off-course issues when he and wife Amanda divorced in March.

After ranking No. 16 in the world one year ago this week, Dufner has slipped to No. 68 but remains optimistic that a return to form is near.

“I got hurt last year, it’s taking longer than what I would like or what I thought. Not so much physically, but mentally. I was not as confident as I could have been,” he said. “But you get that back through practice and playing, playing casual rounds and practice rounds, and slowly it starts to come back in tournament play. So I’m right on the cusp of doing some good golf, I think.”