ARLINGTON, Texas – “No bounce,” Jason Dufner beamed following a ceremonial first pitch that sailed just high enough to allow the PGA Tour’s hottest player to ease off the field gracefully.
Those were the words of wisdom Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington offered Dufner before his brief outing on Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to open the game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Just don’t bounce it,” Washington warned Dufner more than an hour before he was scheduled to take the mound. “That don’t look good. Throw it over his head, that’s OK. Just don’t bounce it.”
Moments before a Texas pitching coach had offered similar advice, “Keep it high,” he cautioned Dufner, who earlier in the day scorched Colonial with a second-round 64 for an 11-under total and a two-stroke lead.
With the same icy demeanor he’s exuded in recent weeks on his way to his maiden victory at last month’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans and last week’s Byron Nelson Championship, Dufner delivered a perfect strike. Well, maybe not perfect but at least it wasn’t in the dirt.
Nerves? Not with Dufner.
When asked if he was more nervous at last year’s PGA Championship, which he led late into Sunday’s final round, or waiting to throw out Friday’s pitch the answer came easy.
“Atlanta (Athletic Club),” he said. “I’m not a baseball player.”
In fact, Dufner hasn’t played baseball since his little league days but, he pointed out, he does spend a good amount of time in the offseason throwing with Baltimore Orioles right-hander Brad Bergesen.
“(Dufner) is a good athlete,” said Matt Kuchar, who was on the field with Dufner during batting practice. “It doesn’t seem that hard.”
Not much has seemed difficult for Dufner these days, particularly not a little soft toss on a warm evening. It wasn’t a third Tour title in his fourth start, that will have to wait until Sunday at Colonial, but at least it didn’t bounce. A victory by any other name.