Golf: Jason Dufner

W2W4: Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

May, 22, 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's time for the second half of the North Texas PGA Tour golf swing and that means a trip to the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. It's a classic course that requires smart play off the tee and an ability to move the ball around.

Here are some golfers to watch as the tournament gets set to begin:

Zach Johnson: He's the defending champion and has won this event twice in the last three years, so you have to put him on a list of contenders. He took the lead with a first-round 64 on Thursday and ended up in a fight to the finish with Jason Dufner, who had won two of the previous four events, including the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Dufner had a triple bogey on the 15th hole, helping Johnson hang on for the victory.

Johnson has made the cut in all seven Colonials he has played and though he doesn't come in particularly hot, he's always a threat in Fort Worth. Johnson finished tied for 19th at The Players Championship a few weeks ago.

Henrik Stenson: At Colonial, it's especially important to keep the ball in the fairway and hit greens in regulation. So Stenson is a safe bet since he leads the PGA Tour in both categories. He has played in three Colonials and his best finish is tied for 27th. But his swing is solid these days and he has been playing at a high level. He was tied for fifth at The Players Championship.

Kevin Streelman: Playing the hot hand here. He won in Tampa and has three top-6 or better finishes in this four cuts made since then. Streelman finished tied for 10th in 2011, posting three straight rounds in the 60s after opening with 72. He's in the top 25 in most of the major statistical categories and is clearly feeling confident about his game.

Matt Kuchar: He has been nearly automatic when it comes to making the cut with 16 straight and counting. The question is whether he can back it up with a strong weekend to get a win. He certainly has proven he can get into contention. And he likes Colonial. Kuchar has made six straight cuts in Fort Worth. He was tied for 33rd in the HP Byron Nelson Championship last week. He was tied for eighth at the Masters in April.

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Emotional Ryan Palmer puts trust in caddie

May, 16, 2013

IRVING, Texas -- Local pro Ryan Palmer puts ultimate trust in caddie James Edmondson’s club decisions in just one tournament every year -- the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Ian Fitzsimmons and Chuck Cooperstein, broadcasting live from the Pavilion at the HP Byron Nelson, are joined by Keegan Bradley, who shot a 10-under 60 in the opening round.

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"This is the one week, his week. He might as well be in here," Palmer said in a post-round interview following a 5-under 65 that has him in a tie for sixth.

When the 36-year-old Colleyville resident asks his caddie for a distance, all he gets is a club.

"I found myself looking at the yardage a little more, but he wouldn’t give it to me. He would say 'hit this 8-iron' and I was like 'how far is it?' It’s kind of strange."

The first time Palmer let Edmondson do the steering at the 2011 Nelson, Palmer made it to a playoff. His Nelson track record prior to that was not impressive.

"I’ve been able to keep that feeling the last couple of years," Palmer said. "I think I’ve shot 65 Thursday every year, or 64 maybe."

It has been an emotional week for Palmer since learning of the death of lifelong friend Clay Aderholt, who was killed in a traffic accident in the San Antonio area seven days ago.

Palmer wore a cap with his friend's initials on Sunday when he finished fifth at The Players Championship. Palmer said he signed that cap and gave it to Reid, his friend’s 4-year-old son and gave a black one to Clay’s dad.

"Maybe we can honor him even more on Sunday afternoon," Palmer said.

[+] EnlargeGuan Tianlang
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesChinese sensation Guan Tianlang, 14, shot even par in his first round at the Nelson.
Young guns: Jordan Spieth, 19, who made headlines in this event as an amateur, opened with a five-birdie, four-bogey 69 in his first Nelson round as a professional. The only amateur in the event this year, 14-year-old Chinese sensation Guan Tianlang, opened with an even par 70.

Practical jokers: Pair Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia and watch sparks fly. Pair Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner and expect a practical joke.

"He loves to mess with me," Bradley said of Dufner.

Before the two Ryder Cup teammates played together Thursday, Bradley found his clubs scattered about in the locker room.

"I left my clubs, which is a huge mistake," Bradley said. "It was my fault. He took my clubs out and they were all over."

Bradley, who fired a 10-under 60 on Thursday, said he is a little reluctant to retaliate.

"I’m too scared to do anything too much because I don’t know what he will do," Bradley said. "He could throw my clubs in the water or something. I did remove something from this locker and he’s going to need it. We’ll see if he can find it."

Bradley and Dufner, joined by Matt Kuchar, draw a 12:20 tee time for Friday’s second round.

International flavor: Of Thursday’s 52 pairings of threesomes, only one was composed entirely of internationals.

The grouping of Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Angel Cabrera seemed to feed off each other’s company, combining to go 14-under.

South African Schwartzel, playing in his first Nelson, led the group with a 7-under 63, two strokes better than Argentina’s Cabrera. Kaymer, a German, shot 2-under.

No delay: Following thunderstorms that drenched the course, workers at TPC Four Seasons were at it early before Round 1, sacking over 100 bags of debris that washed up from a creek that cuts through the course. Most of the debris was on holes 9, 11 and 14. Play began on time at 7 a.m.

Keegan Bradley fires course record at Nelson

May, 16, 2013

IRVING, Texas -- Keegan Bradley took advantage of near-perfect scoring conditions to fire a course-record 10-under 60 in Thursday’s opening round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas.

Ian Fitzsimmons and Chuck Cooperstein, broadcasting live from the Pavilion at the HP Byron Nelson, are joined by Keegan Bradley, who shot a 10-under 60 in the opening round.

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Bradley, who won this event in 2011, made nine birdies and an eagle on greens softened by overnight rain. His eagle came at No. 7 after a 6-iron approach that Bradley called one of his best shots of the year.

"Shooting a course record is pretty unbelievable at an event like this, considering the history and the players that have won and the players that have played here before," Bradley said. "It was an explosive kind of round. All I had to do was get the ball on the green. The hole looked huge today; even the putts I missed almost went in."

Bradley also credited the chemistry from playing partners and Ryder Cup teammates Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner, the the defending champion.

"It felt like a Saturday morning round with your buddies," Bradley said.

A 59 wasn’t really in the equation because Bradley finished eagle, birdie, birdie. His 136-yard approach to the final hole for eagle was on line and stopped three feet from the hole.

"It crossed my mind for a second it would be unbelievable if I buried this," Bradley said of his shot from the fairway.

Despite the heavy rain and storms Wednesday, play began on time at 7 a.m.

"I saw a bunker full of water this morning, so I didn’t expect the course to be in great shape," said South African Charl Schwartzel, who shot 63 and is currently second to Bradley, "but surprisingly, it was very good."

Players to watch: Byron Nelson Championship

May, 15, 2013

IRVING, Texas – It's time for the start of the North Texas swing on the PGA Tour, and that begins with a stop in the backyard of the late Byron Nelson.

Lance Paczkowski, the marshal and escort for Tiger Woods last weekend, joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what happened with Woods and Sergio Garcia.

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The HP Byron Nelson Championship, as it has for the past few years, is trying to make the most of being the tournament directly after The Players Championship. There won't be any rematch of feuding golfers Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, for instance. Neither is in the field. Phil Mickelson isn't here, either.

But there are some top Americans and international players competing at the TPC Four Seasons Resort & Club this week. Let's take a look at some of the golfers to watch in the event, which starts Thursday:

Jason Dufner: All this talk about "Dufnering" doesn't happen without the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Dufner, the defending champion, arrived in Dallas in March and appeared slumped over and out of it as kids were busy reading a story in a classroom at J. Erik Jonsson, a school supported by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which also runs the Nelson. The photo went viral even before Dufner flew out of town and the golfer was a great sport about it. It helped publicize the tournament in a way no one expected.

But joking aside, Dufner can play. He won last year's event thanks to a clutch par putt on the final hole to beat surprise contender Dicky Pride, continuing his best career year. He was the runner-up to Zach Johnson the next week at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. He ended up on the Ryder Cup team and made more than $4.8 million last season.

Dufner's not as hot this season as he was coming into the event last year (after winning in New Orleans). He is still looking for his first top-10 of the season, though he’s made nine of 11 cuts. A final-round 80 dropped him out of a chance at a top-10 at The Players Championship last weekend.

Jason Day: He has to be one of the favorites here because of how well he plays in this event. He won it in 2010, his first time playing in the tournament, and has top-10s in his other two appearances. Day had a 68 in the final round of The Players, earning him a top-20 finish.

Day has played just twice since his third-place finish at the Masters and has made the cut in all 10 of his events in 2013. The Australian nearly withdrew before winning the Nelson in 2010. He felt ill because of medicine for a sinus infection, but stayed in the tournament and won by two strokes over Blake Adams, Brian Gay and Jeff Overton. It was a strange final hole that year as Day hit his approach shot into the water on 18, giving Adams, his playing partner, an opening. But Adams didn't know where Day hit his shot and he ended up in the water too. Day bogeyed the hole to get the win.

Matt Kuchar: He blew into the Nelson fresh off a win at The Players Championship last year. It's not the same in 2013, but Kuchar is as close to an automatic top finisher as you can get on the PGA Tour this year. He has made the cut in all 14 events he’s played and he’s got four top-10s. He likes the Nelson, making the cut in all five of his attempts. His best finish was a tie for sixth two years ago.

Keegan Bradley: It was the Nelson that marked the emergence of Bradley on the PGA Tour. He won rookie of the year honors that season -- 2011 -- and was the rookie of the year. That included a major victory at the PGA Championship that season. But it was the Nelson where he posted his first victory. And he did it coming from behind. He entered the final round four strokes back of Ryan Palmer and shot a 68 to tie Palmer and force a playoff. He won on the first playoff hole (the 18th). He won with a total of 3-under for the event, the highest in relation to par at the Nelson since 1981. It was windy and the players had a tough time, but Bradley survived. He has missed his last two cuts, but he has finished fifth or better in five tournaments this season.

Jordan Spieth: It was at age 16 that Spieth was the biggest story at the Nelson, getting himself into contention on Sunday before finishing tied for 16th as an amateur. He played well under pressure in his first PGA Tour event. Three years later, Spieth is 19 and a pro on the PGA Tour. He made the decision this year to take sponsor’s exemptions rather than go full time on the Tour. But for that to be smart, Spieth had to play well early in the season. He has, earning more exemptions and a chance to finish in the top-125 of the money list to earn his card for next season. The Dallas native has three top-10s this season already and is certainly comfortable in Irving.

Marc Leishman: I know he's probably not a familiar name to many, but in flipping through the top finishers at the Nelson the past four years, his name pops up. Leishman tied for third last year and was in the top-12 in three of his four Nelson appearances. He showed he could hang in under pressure at the Masters, tying for fourth. He posted two more top-10s since and can handle the wind. He’s one to watch.

Don't forget about: Ryan Palmer (two straight top-10s at this event); J.J. Henry (TCU alum has made 10 cuts in 11 appearances); Louis Oosthuizen (has major pedigree and playing well); Ben Crane (he's hot right now and had a top-10 at The Players).

Field set for HP Byron Nelson Championship

May, 13, 2013
The field for this week's HP Byron Nelson has been finalized and will feature recent former champions Jason Dufner, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Vijay Singh along with 14-year-old amateur Guan Tianlang of China and former Jesuit and Texas Longhorns standout Jordan Spieth.

Lance Paczkowski, the marshal and escort for Tiger Woods last weekend, joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what happened with Woods and Sergio Garcia.

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“We are thrilled with the quality, diversity and depth of our field,” 2013 tournament chairman Mike McKinley said in a release. “We have a great mix of young rising stars, PGA Tour veterans and a strong international contingent that I’m certain will have great appeal for our fans.”

Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson are also in a field that includes major champions Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer, Y.E. Yang, Dallas' Justin Leonard, Mike Weir, Angel Cabrera, Trevor Immelman, Bradley and Singh.

The 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship will be played May 13-19 at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas in Irving. Children 13 and under receive free admission, and free public parking and shuttle service is available at the intersection of SH 114 and Loop 12 in Irving (2000 E. John Carpenter Freeway, Irving). Fans may also travel by DART to the Northlake College Station, where free shuttles will be available to the main entrance.

Star power added to fields for Nelson, Colonial

April, 24, 2013
Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Jason Dufner -- all ranked in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Rankings -- will be in the field for both the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Kuchar, ranked No. 10, won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season.

Oosthuizen, ranked No. 7 in the world, finished tied for 10th in the Shell Houston Open -- his best finish this season -- and lost in a playoff at the 2012 Masters.

Schwartzel (No. 15), the 2011 Masters champion, will be making his Metroplex debut for both events.

Keegan Bradley (No. 13), the 2011 Nelson champion, and Martin Kaymer (No. 33), the 2010 PGA Championship winner, also will be teeing it up at TPC Las Colinas. The Nelson field currently includes 12 of the top 50 players in the official world golf rankings. The field will not be final until Friday, May 10 at 5 p.m. The 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship will be played May 13-19 at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas in Irving.

The Colonial field also will be highlighted by Rickie Fowler (No. 29) and defending champion Zach Johnson (No. 30). The field currently includes nine of the top 30 in the world. The field will not be final until Friday, May 17. The 2013 Crowne Plaza at Colonial will be played May 23-26 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.

Former champions commit to HP Byron Nelson

March, 28, 2013
HP Byron Nelson Championship officials announced Thursday that the past four Nelson Champions will be returning to TPC Four Seasons in May. Jason Dufner (2012), Keegan Bradley (2011), Jason Day (2010) and Rory Sabbatini (2009) have all committed to compete at the 2013 Nelson.

“We are proud of the continued successes and accomplishments of each of these HP Byron Nelson champions. They honor our tournament, our charity and the legacy of Byron Nelson by their loyalty and support,” 2013 tournament chairman Mike McKinley said in a release. “We are expecting an extremely strong field and their commitment to play in this year’s tournament will only add to the anticipation and excitement of another memorable championship.”

Former Texas Longhorn and Dallas Jesuit standout Jordan Spieth will also be playing after accepting a sponsor's exemption earlier this month.

The field will not be final until May 10. The Nelson will be played May 13-19 at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas in Irving.

Johnson, Dufner play leapfrog in final stretch

May, 27, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner took turns exchanging two- and three-shot swings on the final 10 holes of a wild final round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on Sunday.

The multi-shot swings happened on five holes, two to the benefit of Dufner and three to the advantage of Johnson, who won his second Crowne Plaza title.

Here’s a look at the swing holes:

No. 9: Dufner double bogey 6 (-14); Johnson par 4 (-14)

Dufner’s approach shot from the rough didn’t carry far enough and spun back into the water, leading to a double bogey. Said Dufner: “I had 108 yards into the wind. I though I was going to get a jumper out of that first cut. I felt like I could get a sand wedge into the middle of the green and get at least get 110, 115 yards out of it. It just didn’t come out the way I wanted and that’s a pretty big turning point.’’

No. 11: Dufner bogey 6 (-13); Johnson birdie 4 (-15)

Dufner’s approach from 106 yards on the par-5 found the greenside bunker. He failed to get his bunker shot close and two-putted for bogey. Johnson converted a 19-foot birdie putt.

No. 12: Dufner birdie 3 (-14); Johnson bogey 5 (-14)

Johnson hit the lip of a fairway bunker and left his ball in the trap, leading to a bogey. Dufner converted his biride putt set up by an approach to seven feet.

Said Johnson: “Damon [caddie] said hit sand wedge and wedge it out. I hit 8-iron. Then I hit 8-iron again. I had four or five more yards of room to cover the second one. That was a good five, I guess. And Dufner made a phenomenal birdie there. That was a real changer after the previous hole.''

Said Dufner: “I knew he was going to have a hard time making par from there, maybe even possibly bringing double bogey into play. That was one of the few times when I was in the first cut and that proved helpful. I was able to hit a nice shot and put a little bit of pressure on him.’’

No. 15: Dufner triple bogey 7 (-11), Johnson par 4 (-15)

Johnson made a routine par, hitting the green in regulation and two-putting. Dufner’s approach long and left found a water hazard and he needed two chips to find the putting surface after a penalty.

Said Dufner: “He made a great birdie on 14. That made me push the envelope a little bit there. I hit a 3-wood off the tee. The fairways were chasing a little bit more today. I’ve been underneath that bunker with a 3-wood, but today, just rolled in it. I had 142 yards with wind in and off the right. I hit a 9-iron probably a little further left than I was looking. Just pitched it on the back and it barely trickled over in the water and you are pretty much dead back there. It turned out to be a seven and the difference in the tournament.’’

Said Johnson: “He didn’t hit a good shot there. But he got a bad break. You don’t want to see that.’’

No. 18: Dufner par 4 (-11), Johnson double bogey 6 (-12)

Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty for failure to replace his ball after moving his mark. Happily for Johnson, his lead was large enough to absorb the penalty.

Said Johnson: “I’ve never done that before. Maybe I was caught up in the moment a little too much. I don’t know what would have happened if I had missed. I got lucky because they told me before I signed my scorecard.’’

Said Dufner: “In that moment, to be honest, I wasn’t thinking about him moving his coin back. I didn’t even realize he hadn’t moved his coin until I got in the scorer trailer and they informed me that he hadn’t.’’

Jason Dufner heads to help Auburn at NCAAs

May, 27, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jason Dufner didn't get to join Ben Hogan as a winner of the Colonial and the Byron Nelson (known as the Dallas Open in its earlier incarnation), settling for second place.

He won't be back in action until the U.S. Open., but he'll be right back on the golf course Monday morning -- and looking to raise some hardware soon after.

Dufner, a proud Auburn alum, will leave the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial tonight bound for Los Angeles and the NCAA Division I mens' golf championship at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. The tournament starts Tuesday.

"I'm going to work with the men's golf team at the NCAA championships," Dufner said after a tough back nine to finish plus-four on the day and minus-11 for second place behind Zach Johnson. "I'll be there Monday and Tuesday to work with those guys. It's at Riviera, which I have a little experience playing."

Dufner was an honorable-mention All-America in 1997 at Auburn and an All-SEC selection in 1997-98 and 2000. An economics major, Dufner narrowly missed his third career PGA Tour victory at Colonial, which would have matched his total wins in college.

Dufner and his new wife Amanda got married in Auburn on May 5.

Zach Johnson incurs penalty on final green

May, 27, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A confusing ending to the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial did not change the winner, only his margin of victory.

Zach Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty on the final hole for a failure to replace his ball in the proper place on No. 18. He was two feet away from the cup when he marked his ball and moved the mark to get it out of the line of playing partner Jason Dufner.

Johnson failed to move the mark back before tapping in his putt. He was thus in violation of Rule 20-7.

Happily for Johnson, he could afford the penalty. Instead of a par, he was credited with a double bogey six, but at 12-under, still finished one shot ahead of runner-up Jason Dufner (11-under).

Momentum swings to Zach Johnson

May, 27, 2012
FORTH WORTH, Texas -- Zach Johnson tightened his tenuous grip on the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial lead with a birdie on No. 15 while Jason Dufner found the drink once again and couldn't recover.

A fourth multiple-shot swing in the last seven holes now has Johnson up four shots with three holes to play. If that seems safe, re-read the part about four multiple-shot swings in this crazy final round.

Dufner found the water after his tee shot landed in a fairway bunker. Out of the water, he overshot the green and had to chip back on. Then his short putt to save a double-bogey somehow went awry and Dufner's chances of back-to-back victories might have come to an inglorious end.

Dufner is now plus-four on the day. Johnson is just minus-1 but now has the things under control as he closes in on his second Colonial championship in three years.

Jason Dufner is seventh to find water at No. 9

May, 27, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jason Dufner’s fourth-round approach shot that spun back into the pond at No. 9 was the seventh to find the water hazard today and the 29th in the pond this week.

Dufner’s miscue led to a double-bogey, which allowed Zach Johnson to tie him for the lead at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

The par-4 ninth at Colonial Country Club was playing shorter today at 386 yards to a front left pin position, which brought the water into play.

For the week at No. 9, there were 96 bogeys, 20 double bogeys and five triple bogeys or higher. The hole is tied for fourth in difficulty.

2-shot swing on 11 puts Zach Johnson up 2

May, 27, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- No. 9 isn't the only hole that might sink Jason Dufner's chances of securing the DFW double. He bogeyed No. 11 after teeing off into the rough and then coming down in a bunker.

Meanwhile, Zach Johnson, who took a brief lead after No. 2 and then fell behind by two strokes after No. 8, suddenly finds himself in the lead at minus-15 and two strokes ahead of the faltering Dufner, who is plus-2 in today's final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Johnson birdied No. 11 with a beautiful putt of near 19 feet.

While Dufner is looking to become the first since Tiger Woods in 2009 to win back-to-back golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, Johnson is seeking his second Colonial plaid jacket in three years.

Will pivotal hole No. 9 decide champ?

May, 27, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- A double bogey for Jason Dufner, his first in the last 147 holes, has set up a dead heat with Zach Johnson heading to the back nine in this final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Dunfer's second shot on hole No. 9 landed on the green, but bounced back and splashed in the water. After dropping and getting within 18 feet, he narrowly missed the putt to drop back to minus-14.

Johnson made a nice save on the hole when his second shot, with his left foot on the edge of the bunker and choking down on his club, got onto the green. With a chance for a three-shot swing and the lead on hole No. 9, his 14-foot, six-inch putt lipped out, leaving Johnson to settle for the par and the tie.

For the round, Dufner is plus-1 and Johnson is even.

Still, no one else has made up much ground with Tommy Gainey and John Huh both at minus-7. Gainey is through 13 holes and Huh is through 10.

As for Johnson's course-record 21-under, that would appear to be safe for another year.

Back to a dead heat at Colonial

May, 27, 2012
UPDATE: With a second consecutive birdie, Jason Dufner pushed back into the lead at minus-16 after six holes, one stroke ahead of Zach Johnson, and right back where they started the final found.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- We're all tied up at minus-15 through five holes at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Zach Johnson took over the lead on No. 2 and Jason Dufner has come back to tie things up on No. 5 with an 8-foot putt for birdie while Johnson made par, his fourth consecutive par.

Johnson's course record of 21-under remains under attack.

This remains strictly a two-horse race. Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey has made a nice run, going 4-under through nine to get to minus-8. John Huh is minus-6 through six and Tom Gillis is minus-6 through five holes.