JASON Dufner was determined he would not change after winning the US PGA Championship – and the American looks to have got his wish as he returns to action in The Barclays this week.
Dufner claimed his first major title at Oak Hill earlier this month but the 36-year-old’s feet have been kept firmly on the ground ever since.
“I changed my [phone] number about three weeks ago so very few people had my number,” Dufner explained ahead of the first FedEx Cup play-off event at Liberty National in New Jersey. “Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson [US sports legends] texted me but most people who have my number I’m in regular contact with anyway.
“Nothing much has changed, I still had to take the trash out on Tuesday morning and we’ve just got a new puppy so I’ve been up at 3am taking him to the bathroom.
“It was kind of a whirlwind there for a couple of days after the win, I went to New York for some media stuff and there have been demands on my time, but I live in a pretty small town so I have not had to deal with too much since I got back to Auburn.”
Dufner’s victory at Oak Hill lifted him from 62nd to 14th in the FedEx Cup standings and he begins the first of four possible events in 15th place.
The top 125 players in the standings have qualified for The Barclays, with the field being trimmed to 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship, 70 for the BMW Championship and then 30 for the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
“I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I’m trying to do the same things I have been doing for the last couple of years,” Dufner added in his pre-tournament press conference.
“But we have a great set of events coming up that can make a season and I am pretty focused on getting back to Atlanta. Winning a major has made me a little hungrier to win more tournaments, more majors, make more Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. I have not enjoyed my win as much as other people might have because I am focused on getting ready to play well this week.”
Liberty National underwent various modifications following the 2009 Barclays, and Dufner has liked what he’s seen so far.
“I think the changes are for the better,” he added. “I haven’t played the front nine, I only played the back nine and I saw some changes yesterday. I think it’s getting better. I know there was a lot of negative feedback from players in ’09, but I think from what I saw yesterday, a lot of things are improved.”
Tiger Woods enters the play-offs at the top of the standings for the fifth time and is seeking his third FedEx Cup title. The world No 1 is lined up to play with last year’s winner Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar for the first two rounds.
Nick Watney won The Barclays last year before Rory McIlroy triumphed in the next two events, but Snedeker won the Tour Championship itself to claim the $10 million bonus.
Watney has recorded just two top-ten finishes in 2013 but knows from last year that anything is possible.
“Last year wasn’t the greatest regular season for me either and I end up winning a couple times at the end of the year,” he said. “So that’s what I’m hoping for, and, with the format the way it is, if you get hot at the right time you can play all the way through Atlanta and have a whole lot to play for. Hopefully lightning will strike twice.”
Martin Laird is the only Scot in the field this week, while top English players Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald will all tee up tomorrow.