Editor's LetterJune 16, 2014

For the Love of Dufner

Tearing back the layers of Jason Dufner, our cover subject

Jason and Amanda Dufner are not equally comfortable in front of a camera.

Jason and Amanda Dufner are not equally comfortable in front of a camera.

Director of Photography Christian Iooss couldn't sleep the night before the cover shoot for this issue. Jason Dufner is known for having one look, and that's deadpan—a careful pretense of calm detachment. Not so bad for a golfer, but challenging for a cover subject. His name has even become a verb: to dufner, dufnered, dufnering. We knew he had something more ticking underneath, but how to get it out?

Christian had hired his father, Golf Digest Photographer-at-Large Walter Iooss Jr., who brought his assistant, Troy Robertson, to the shoot. "Troy is to Walter what stable pony Billy Silver was to Secretariat," says Senior Writer Guy Yocom. "He's an incredible muse; from Kate Upton to Bubba Watson, when you want to bring another human being to life, you bring along Troy. Duf is a pop-culture junkie, and he recognized Troy as a cast member from the 'Survivor' TV series [2012] and lit up. He's asking how he could get on the show, how long could he survive. Next thing you know, Troy's got music blaring, and we're off. Walter actually had to pause a couple of times because Jason became too animated." There was even lipstick involved.

Yocom has owned our My Shot franchise for more than a decade and did the surprising interview that accompanies Duf's images (see "Duf Love"

). "I kept hearing that what you see with Dufner is what you get, but that wasn't true when I sat down with him," Yocom says. "He's smarter than he wants you to know, and better read. He spilled out quick, excellent summaries of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Great Gatsby. He laughs a lot, in short, dry bursts. He has a straight-man style of humor.

"Beneath his round, narrow shoulders and slight paunch is a remarkable athlete with amazing reflexes and dexterity. Walter took photographs of him throwing handfuls of tees at the camera. Between shots, Dufner would toss up the tees and pluck a designated one out of the air with his thumb and forefinger, like a martial artist snatching flies with a pair of chopsticks."

I don't know Jason Dufner except from observation, but he's always struck me as a modern-day Freddie Couples, as in the kind of guy that guys want to be like and women want to be with. Maybe not matinee handsome like Freddie, but hey, Zach Galifianakis is a leading man in irony-rich Hollywood today. So I asked Golf World Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz if there was any merit in the comparison.

"I think big picture, the source of Dufner's popularity is very similar to Couples': People are drawn to those who give the illusion that life is easy. Everyone knows it isn't, but the effort is brave. The fact is, it's been plenty hard for Dufner, who was a journeyman, and who still struggles with his short putting, like Couples. But a lot of things about Dufner are quite different. He's meticulous about his club specs; Couples professes not to know basic stuff like the lie angle on his irons. Dufner has a degree in economics from Auburn; Couples admittedly almost never went to class at Houston. Dufner is clearly besotted with his wife, Amanda; Couples has moved from one relationship to another. When Fred says something funny, it's generally by accident. Dufner is witty and pretty clever."

Duf is unquestionably his own man, and deadpan is not the only thing he knows how to play.