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Jason Dufner hits gym hard for first time, opens Fortinet in 67

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Jason Dufner is picking up where he left off last season.

The 44-year-old Dufner capped his previous campaign with four straight top-30 finishes and 11 of 16 rounds in the 60s. While he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, at No. 154 in points, he hasn’t appeared to have lost momentum.

His 5-under 67 Thursday in Napa, California, has the former PGA champ just two shots off the lead at the Fortinet Championship.

So, what’s been the key?

“Firm and fast is always kind of in my wheelhouse,” said Dufner, who tied for 29th last fall at Silverado Resort.

Especially now that the traditionally short-hitting Dufner has gained some extra speed and distance. He has never ranked better than 64th on Tour in driving distance, and that year (2012) he still only averaged 292.2 yards off the tee. Last season, Dufner ranked 163rd at 289.6 yards.

Full-field scores from the Fortinet Championship

On Thursday, Dufner was T-36 at 298.4 yards.

“I picked up some speed here in the last six months or so,” he said. “I've been training in the gym some for the first time in my career trying to gain some speed to move faster; not necessarily change my golf swing so much, but just to get my body moving faster. Then I've seen some gains, I started seeing some gains kind of in June, July before we had the break. Makes it a little bit easier, I can get to some of the par 5s. I'm really good with my wedges, so anything I can get inside 150 really helps.”