Jason Dufner is in his mid-40s. He’s 10 years removed from the crowning achievement of his professional career. And his future playing opportunities on his longtime tour are limited.
So, he’s trying something new this week. Something different. Something he hopes will lead to an exciting new chapter of his competitive life.
The 2013 PGA Championship winner is arguably the most decorated player of the 73 competitors at this week’s LIV Golf Promotions event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. He’s the only player with a major win, and he also has Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup experience, along with the most PGA Tour wins of anyone (5).
Now he has a chance to join the 2024 LIV Golf League if he can finish in the top three after Sunday’s 36-hole final day. It would be a considerable career U-turn for Dufner, who has spent the last 18 years playing an American-based schedule. He’s certainly embracing the possibility; otherwise, he wouldn’t be here.
“For me, it would be a new experience, obviously,” the 46-year-old Dufner said Thursday on the eve of a first round that he doesn’t need to play, thanks to a tournament invite directly into Saturday’s second round.
“At this point, maybe something new, maybe something different might refresh me a little bit. … Looking forward to the week of qualifying and seeing where I stack up.”
The decision to play in the Promotions tournament, Dufner said, is mostly related to his category status on the PGA Tour. “I’d be in the past champion category,” he explained. “I think that’s going to be very limited starts with the way things have changed on the PGA Tour, and I just looked at it like maybe I could come over and play this tour. Maybe that would be an opportunity for me.
“I’m an independent contractor, so I’m always looking for opportunities to play. … If I could come over here and have a good week, that would open up some doors for something new and something different for me to be part of LIV Golf.”
Although Dufner has competed against many of the current LIV golfers, he said he doesn’t have close relationships with any of them. But he certainly is aware of the success of the league’s biggest names, including Brooks Koepka, who has won three of the 10 PGA Championships played since Dufner’s victory at Oak Hill.
“There are great players on this tour. I know that,” he said. “I’m familiar with these guys, and when I do see these guys, they always have good things to say about this tour.”
LIV Golf’s global schedule certainly is appealing to Dufner. The 2024 regular-season schedule was recently released; of the 12 tournaments announced, seven will be held in nations outside the United States – Mexico (Mayakoba) in February, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong in March, Australia (Adelaide) in April, Singapore in May, and Spain (Andalucía) and England in July.
Dufner’s appearances outside North America have been rare in recent years, although he did play the Saudi International in 2022. He’s even played at Abu Dhabi Golf Club before, in 2013 when he tied for ninth.
“When I was in my prime for that decade or so, I played a lot around the world and I enjoyed it,” he said. “I enjoyed going to different places. I enjoyed bringing the game of golf to places.
“I think in the States, we’re spoiled because every week is almost a new event in a different location that is in the United States. But people in Hong Kong or Australia or in Abu Dhabi don’t get to see the best players in the world on a week-to-week basis, so I always thought it was important when I was one of the best players in the world to kind of go and play globally. I think that is very interesting to me that this tour kind of plays that global schedule and hits all these different spots.”
Asked what kind of form he’s in, Dufner called it “reasonably well” since the U.S. Open in June. He tied for 19th recently in Napa, California, one of his top results in recent years. Once he committed to playing LIV Golf Promotions, he’s put in proper prep time.
“I feel like we see it in all professional sports – guys that struggle or aren’t playing great,” Dufner said. “Every week is a new opportunity. I think that’s the great thing about professional golf. Things can change pretty quickly.”
If Dufner finishes inside the top 3 this week, things will definitely change quickly for him as the next chapter begins.
Main Image: Turk Pettit, Jason Dufner and Jed Morgan (l-r). LIV Golf