DUBLIN, OHIO | It’s an old golf ploy, almost a cliché, asking your opponent if he inhales or exhales when he makes a swing.
The intention, you may have figured out, is to mess with his mind.
Then there’s Jason Dufner.
More accurately, now there’s Jason Dufner.
He is consciously thinking about breathing in and out as he stands over each putt.
Dufner breathes in. Dufner breathes out. Then he hits the putt.
And it’s working.
It’s not the only reason Dufner has opened the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village with a pair of 65s but it’s a big reason. Holing a 176-yard 6-iron for an eagle at the par-4 18th hole Friday didn’t hurt. (See video below)
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Short putts and Dufner have not always been on a friendly basis.
“Putting has been a bit of a struggle with me at times,” Dufner said.
He’s made enough to win the PGA Championship and three other events in a Tour career that began in 2000 but there have been times when everyone seemed to hold their breath when Dufner faced an important short one.
Dufner came across some literature about how Marine snipers work on their breathing to slow their heart rate and decided to give it a try. He’s still not Jordan Spieth on the greens but he ranks 47th on Tour in strokes gained putting this year.
“It seems to relax me and also give me something think about other than making putts,” Dufner said.
As for lowering his heartbeat, how much lower can it go for Dufner?
“Yeah, that’s a good question,” Dufner, the PGA Tour’s unofficial logo for laid-back, said.
Adam Scott smiled at the idea of Dufner mellowing out.
“It doesn’t look like Duf needs to stay much calmer than he normally is; we might have to check his pulse soon,” Scott said.