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August 3 2012

10:48 PM

Dufner’s got big cheering section

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Jason Dufner is playing in his fifth World Golf Championships event this week at Firestone.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

AKRON, Ohio -- When Jason Dufner was a teenager growing up in Cleveland, the aspiring young golfer would come to watch the pros play Firestone Country Club each summer.

"So (I'm) familiar with the course a little bit watching other guys play," he acknowledged.

Back then the tournament was the NEC World Series of Golf, and like the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational the fabled course now hosts, all the game's best came to play. And this year, Dufner is among that number after picking up the first two wins of his PGA TOUR career.

Dufner's first two competitive rounds at Firestone have been extremely solid, too. He opened with a 67, then posted a 66 on Friday that included a birdie on the 18th hole and lifted him to sole possession of fourth, five strokes behind Jim Furyk.

Dufner may have had plenty of ticket requests to fulfill this week but he's enjoyed playing in front of family and friends.

"It's nice to come back and play in front of a lot of folks that haven't had a chance to see me play up close," Dufner said. "... I don't have a lot of experience on this course, but I'm from this area, and it's good to play in front of a home crowd."

Dufner's played his usually steady game over the first two rounds. He's second in fairways hit, missing just eight; tied for sixth in putting with 27 each day and tied for ninth in greens in regulation.

"Everything has been good," Dufner said. "I've been able to hit the fairways, which is nice for me. I can hit a lot of drivers which gives me shorter clubs into the holes, so I can be more aggressive. And I've putted pretty good I feel like. ... I think I've got four bogeys for the week and three of them are on par 5s, so I've got to work on that a little bit."

Dufner could take over the lead in the FedExCup from Tiger Woods if he finishes first or second on Sunday. He'd also be the first player making his Bridgestone Invitational debut -- aside from Tiger Woods in the inaugural event in 1999 -- to win in his first appearance.

The Auburn grad doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, though.

"We've got two more days left," Dufner said. "Depends on what the weather does, how the course responds to what they're doing out there. If it gets firmer and faster it's obviously tougher to shoot low scores. Feel like I'm in pretty good position heading into the weekend and a couple guys in front of me, so hopefully I can chase them down."

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