Healthier, leaner Dufner has big plans for 2014-15
Enters Humana Challenge 20 pounds lighter than last season
January 21, 2015
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- A new diet has helped Jason Dufner shed weight and he hopes it will also limit injury. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Jason Dufner has given up many of his favorite foods in an effort to improve his health, but he doesn’t view his new diet as a sacrifice.
“I didn't really have a choice,” he said Wednesday. “If I didn’t do it, I wasn’t going to be able to play golf. So it was pretty simple for me.”
The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation begins Thursday in La Quinta, California. It will be Dufner’s first start in the United States since he withdrew from his title defense at the PGA Championship. It’s appropriate that Dufner is making his 2015 debut at an event that emphasizes health and wellness. He lost 20 pounds in the offseason thanks to drastic dietary changes.
Dufner is one of 14 top-50 players in the field, six of whom are in the world ranking’s top 25. Patrick Reed won last year’s event after opening with three consecutive 63s to set the TOUR’s record for low 54-hole score with relation to par. The defending champ is coming off a victory two weeks ago at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Phil Mickelson is making his first start of 2014-15 after going winless last season. FedExCup champ Billy Horschel also is in the field.
Whoever wins will have to go low. Reed shot 28 under last year. The winning score has been at least 24 under in the three years that the Humana has been a 72-hole event. This week’s courses were three of the four easiest on the PGA TOUR in 2013-14.
PGA West’s Nicklaus Private course was the easiest, averaging 68.82 strokes. The Palmer Private, which will host the final round, was second-easiest with a 68.96 average; the Palmer Private was site of David Duval’s final-round 59 in 1999. La Quinta Country Club yielded a 69.77 average, making it the fourth easiest.
Dufner last played here in 2012, finishing 12th. He has started the past two seasons at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, though, after winning twice in 2012 and the 2013 PGA Championship. He was winless during an injury-marred 2013-14 season, though.
“I haven’t felt good for two or three years, to be honest with you,” Dufner said. “It kind of came to a head last year. I couldn’t play. I missed the Playoffs, missed the defense of my PGA Championship, more than likely missed playing in the Ryder Cup because of it.”
Jason Dufner comments on his new diet before Humana
He withdrew after playing 10 holes of his PGA defense and vowed not to return to golf until he was healthy. He made his next start 11 weeks later in Australia.
A new, gluten-free diet has helped him feel better. He said his new diet is aimed at removing inflammation from his body, which was a reason for much of his excess weight. He’s not exactly sure what caused the pain he dealt with for much of last season, but he believes inflamed and tight muscles were compressing on nerves, causing pain in his left shoulder and a “dead arm.”
Dufner’s good friend, Keegan Bradley, said the weight loss will be good for Dufner’s game. He also used discussion about Dufner’s weight as an opportunity to rib his pal.
“In 2011 and 2012, … he was playing well. He was a lot skinnier,” Bradley said. “He needed to lose the weight. He was very fat.”
After eating completely “clean” for 11 weeks – “That sucked,” he said – Dufner allows himself the occasional indulgence. He had an In-N-Out burger when he arrived in California. He said it will likely be the only one he eats this year.
Fast food has been the hardest thing for him to stay away from, especially with a TOUR pro’s itinerant lifestyle. “I also really like chocolate and peanut butter, for whatever reason,” he said. “That isn’t consumed very often anymore.”
He was bed-ridden with headaches for the first five days of his diet as his body struggled to adjust. His golf game has felt great, though.
Some players have struggled after their physique has changed. Dufner said that’s not the case. The early returns have been promising. He’s made four overseas starts since the PGA, finishing no worse than 26th.
He was 10th at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
The new physique means that the paunch that was made famous by “Dufnering” is slowly going away. He’s OK with that.
“I’m trying to stay away from that stuff,” he said. “I need to be more focused on what I’m doing on the course and what I need to do to be successful.”