An Interview With: JASON DUFNER
KELLY ELBIN: In his Ryder Cup debut, Jason Dufner of the United States joins us at the 39th Ryder Cup. Jason is one of four rookies on the 2012 United States Team. Jason had two victories on the PGA Tour this year, tied for fourth at the U.S. Open.
Jason, welcome. How does it feel to finally be here at Medinah representing the United States?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it's great to be here. There's been a couple weeks now since the team's been named. So you've been thinking about it a little bit here and there, trying to get through the Playoffs and play some good golf there with the anticipation of this week being after that.
It's nice to be here in Chicago and just getting ready to start the event and get some practice rounds and start up on Friday.
KELLY ELBIN: Thank you. Have you had a chance to play Medinah? Do you know much about it? Comments on that, please.
JASON DUFNER: I played for the first time the Monday after the BMW event we had in Indianapolis. So that was the first time on the golf course. I had not seen it before the changes had come out or since the changes have been made. So to me, obviously it's a new golf course. I don't have anything to reference it to from prior events.
But you know, I like a lot of the looks off the tee. A lot of the approach shots fit my eye pretty well. Green complexes seem to be a little bit tougher and maybe need to put some work into trying to figure out breaks and how putts and chips are going to kind of be played this week.
Q. You guys have a handful of rookies, so does the European side. Have you yet had a chance to talk to the veterans about just the different level of pressure that maybe you felt or you have felt in major championships running down the stretch?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, you know I don't think we've really addressed the pressure aspect of it. I think we have talked about some things to expect this week, some situations to expect; how the event is going to be played. But not as far as, you know, how guys are going to be feeling out there. I think that's probably more specific to the individual. Some guys are going to be reacting to the situation a little bit differently, and I think the only way to kind of know how you're going to be reacting to that is to be involved in it.
So I'll have a better idea on Friday about how I might react to the pressure of playing in a Ryder Cup.
Q. What's your first memory of a Ryder Cup, and when did it become a goal to make the team?
JASON DUFNER: Right, you know, I started playing golf a little bit later. For me my first memory is probably in '93, I believe they played at The Belfry. I remember waking up in the morning and I was like, I'm not really sure what this whole Ryder Cup thing is, but I'm going to check it out. I know there's a lot of good players playing in it. I remember watching people like Captain Davis Love, Tom Kite, and watching these matches and being intrigued by it, because it was so different from all the other golf that I had watched previously where it's all kind of individual and everybody is doing their own thing.
The team concept seemed pretty unique and neat to me, and you know, alternate shot was not something that I had ever seen on television, so that was kind of unique and different to me. So '93 was probably the first time I remember watching a Ryder Cup, and just seeing the team atmosphere and the crowd seemed to be a little bit crazier and a little bit wilder. So you know, that's actually one of my first actual golf memories to be honest with you is watching those matches.
Q. Do you tend to get nervous when you're on the first tee at an important event, and what do you think this first tee experience will be like?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I don't think nervous is probably the right word. Probably a little bit more anxious. I think a lot of guys, you're anxious to see how you're going to play, how the day is going to go. But once usually once the round gets started, I kind of get settled in and feel pretty good.
Obviously with this format, it's a little bit different. You're not trying to shoot a low score, you're just trying to play each hole individually and play each hole well. Maybe that will be a little less pressure because you're not trying to put a score together, so to speak.
I think obviously the pressure and the environment of this event is going to be nothing that I've experienced. So I'm just looking forward to being out there and in that moment and seeing how I respond to it. I generally stay pretty even, not too up, not too down. It might be a good fit for me.
Q. Are you a stats fan? Are you looking at the numbers? When you look at your teammates, a lot of them were in the top 20 in the FedExCup. When you look at the number career numbers in Ryder Cup, team wise, a lot of your opponents have better numbers. Are you looking at those numbers or do you try to put all that to the side coming to this event?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, there's a little bit of statistics that you can look at. I think if you look at it one way, it favors one team; I think if you look at it another way, it favors the other team.
I know this: We have got 12 guys on our team that are playing really good golf right now. You referred earlier, all 12 of us made THE TOUR Championship last week. We have had some guys play really, really well I would say in the second half of the season. So you know, you can skew the stats either way for whatever team you might be trying to favor in a story or when you're talking to somebody.
But you know, I think our team is looking at it from the standpoint of we've got 12 guys that have played really, really good golf for a good period of time this year. I think a lot of the guys, all the guys are really confident going into the matches, and I think we feel good about where our team is at and how we are playing. And I think Captain Love has got a hard decision about sitting four guys each day, you know, because we've got so many guys playing well. That's probably his toughest decision of the week is which four of these guys am I going to have to tell that they are not playing for this specific match.
Q. Has Davis talked to you at all about potential pairings that you might be playing with? Have you offered any hints about who you might prefer to be paired with?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, we talked about it a little bit in the team meeting. Today is our first day together as a team. You'll see, kind of get an idea of possible pairings in the practice round; some of us will be playing together. You know, we've talked about it, and through the process of being on the team after he made the selections, we talked about who maybe we would like to play with, and I think we have paired some of those people up.
So out in the practice rounds, you'll see some of it today, some of the guys will be playing together, and we'll kind of have some feedback after the rounds to see if that's the direction we want to go in.
Q. Graeme was just in here talking about the merits of experience in Ryder Cup play, and as you alluded, this is going to be something like you've never experienced before. But in a way, do you feel that having your rookie Ryder Cup experience on home soil might help to ease that a little bit, and particularly in a town like Chicago where you guys are apt to just get such incredible support?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, definitely. Some of the guys have kind of talked about that; that you kind of want your first Ryder Cup, if you can, to be on U.S. soil. You're going to have that home team support, so to speak. I'm really looking forward to the people of Chicago and everybody else who comes out to this event just really being supportive of the team and just being crazy out there and going nuts when we make birdies and being behind us, in a respectful way, hopefully, and just being supportive of the team in general. I think that will be a great advantage for us. It's going to free us up. It's going to make us feel comfortable. And you know, I don't know what it will do to the other team, but it's going to make us feel a lot better about it and have that support that we need to try and win this thing.
Q. You guys play such an individualistic game, but every so often, a few of you get the opportunity to play as a team and play for your nation and it's a huge honor, of course. Can you just talk a little about the motivation of playing in this event as opposed to what you guys do week in and week out?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, it's completely different, I think. I haven't been on a team or had a team concept feeling with golf since I played in college. And probably when I played in college, I was probably a little bit too selfish and didn't realize how special that could be.
I've gotten a little bit older, been close to making some of these teams in the past, finally on one of the teams. So I'm really excited to just embrace that team concept, be part of a team, help guys in any way that I can, and just be part of a team. You know, a lot of us follow sports, so we follow golf's really one of the major individual sports there is. A lot of the sports that we follow are team concept orientated, so that really fascinates me about how close teams get and how it propels them to victory.
You know, it's a unique experience. I don't know how many of these events I'll be able to play in in my career, but I know this week, I'm really going to cherish that team concept and just really enjoy the week and being part of the team and representing the United States.
Q. Who are you playing with today in practice, and what's the coolest gift you've gotten so far?
JASON DUFNER: Playing with Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, and who is the fourth maybe Furyk? No, not Furyk. I can't remember the fourth. Maybe it's Kuchar. Yeah, I think it is Kuchar.
Neatest gift so far? We got a watch yesterday. That's pretty nice. Got a bottle of champagne, too, so hopefully we'll be using that later in the week.
KELLY ELBIN: Jason Dufner, thank you very much.
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