CHARLOTTE, N.C. — How to describe Jason Dufner’s last 12 months? Let’s just say Dude Wipes was a useful sponsorship deal to sign.
In Dufner’s last 22 starts, he has missed the cut a dozen times, finished in the top 50 just three times and tallied a whopping 10.32 world ranking points. Total.
So naturally he shot 63 Friday with seven birdies, an eagle and just one bogey at Quail Hollow to take the halfway lead at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I pretty much changed everything,” Dufner said.
He’s not kidding.
Swing coach Chuck Cook? Gone. Putting coach Phil Kenyon? Hired! Caddie? He’s on his FOURTH of the year. That’s just the beginning.
“I think I'm on my fourth or fifth putter this year, I'm on my fourth or fifth driver, my fourth or fifth golf ball, fourth or fifth lob wedge,” Dufner said. “I'm trying to find stuff that's going to work.”
At least you can’t say he hasn’t been trying.
Two years removed from his last victory, it’s been a precipitous fall for the 42-year-old. Over the last year, the one-time major champion has plummeted from inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking to 222nd entering this week.
Demoralizing stuff, even for a guy whose pulse seems to beat once every few minutes.
“Golf's a tough game,” Dufner said. “It’s a lonely game, it's a frustrating game. There's been times where I felt maybe these changes weren't right, but you've got to believe in it a little bit.”
That’s been tough to find.
At least there have been signs of life, especially through the first two rounds at Quail Hollow. Dufner has missed just four fairways and gotten up-and-down 10 of 11 times. Friday, he took just 25 putts, rolling in 134 feet, 10 inches worth of them, including a 40-foot bomb for birdie on 17, the second-toughest hole on the course. He also drained a 23-footer for eagle on the par-5 seventh.
“My window's pretty short on my career,” he said. “I’ve probably got three or four more really good years left in me, so I'm not really trying to be mediocre or average.
“I think change can be a good thing.”
Sometimes it just takes making one. Or four or five.