Press Conference - Wednesday, January 18, 2017
DOUG MILNE: We would like to welcome 2016 CareerBuilder defending champion. Jason, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. You got your fourth career PGA TOUR title last year, so you're somewhat used to coming back and defending titles. With that being said, just a few thoughts on how you're feeling coming into the week as you prepare to defend this title.
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, always a great thing to come back and defend. A lot of good memories here. I love playing here in Palm Springs. The weather generally speaking is very good. Possibly going to have some weather issues this week, which will make it a little bit more challenging. But just excited to be back, excited to be back playing again. Took some time off at the end of the year, so played a couple weeks in Hawaii and here for Palm Springs. So it's always good to be defending, lots of good memories, like I said, haven't played the Stadium Course, but I heard there's a plaque over there somewhere on 17, so maybe I'll check that out this afternoon after this pro-am gets done.
DOUG MILNE: I'm sure there will be a question or two about that and with that said we'll jump right into questions.
Q. You mean you didn't get out of the car and immediately run back out and check that place out on 17?
JASON DUFNER: No, I did not. But hopefully I'll check it out today. I know there's a pro-am out there, I'm hoping to get out there and maybe play the back nine. So we'll check it out and see.
Q. What does it feel like to come back to a place that you won at? Obviously, very few people actually get to defend, but you've had a couple of chances to do it, you didn't get a chance in 2013, new golf course for the PGA in 2014, but does it feel like, well, this is a place I ought to be able to win again?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I've had a lot of good tournament rounds on these courses that we played. I think last year I spoke about the familiarity and playing well -- the last time I was at Q-School was here -- so a lot of good things have kind of come in these couple hundred acres right around here in my career. So it's always comfortable. And winning an event, you feel like you can play these golf courses well and it gives you a lot of confidence going into this week. So it's been a good week. My routine's always the same here. I always stay in the same place and eat in the same restaurants and stuff like that. I notice a lot of people in the area remember me from winning, because the community is so involved in this event. So getting a lot of, "congrats" and, "make it two in a row," and stuff like that, so that makes you feel good.
Q. As you're back on property, what sticks out to you the most from last year, from those 72 holes?
JASON DUFNER: I think two things. How well I played for the first three days. Like that's probably the best I've ever played in my career for three consecutive rounds. And then, obviously, getting that type of break on 17, that ball staying up, not being in the hazard, being playable and then being able to make a par out of it. So I remember how well I was playing at that point in time last year for those first three days, so that gives me a lot of confidence, knowing that I'm comfortable with the golf course, that my game was in good form, and then just that break. You need those breaks sometimes.
Q. Scoring on the TOUR continue to trend downward, it's almost like you have to shoot 20-under to win or better. Is it just because of the same reasons we have always talked about, conditioning and equipment and better athletes or is there something else going on mentally with these guys where they just aren't afraid to do that?
JASON DUFNER: I think there's a lot of factors. Some of it is I think we have better athletes, better knowledge, better equipment, all these things that make the game a little bit easier for us. I think some of it goes into golf courses that we're playing now, some of them are almost becoming a little bit too easy, distance-wise, setup-wise. Sony Open is a great event, I played it probably seven or eight times, but last week was probably the softest and the least amount of rough I've ever seen on that golf course. So, you start putting in all these different kind of factors and we're going to shoot low scores. It could be anybody. You saw a lot of guys last week challenging 59. We had one guy shoot 59. So I think that's a big factor is just setup and condition of the golf course. We're playing golf courses, because of the state of agronomy, that are in better shape than we have ever seen. You play these golf courses, it's like hitting off carpet and there's no imperfections. So, I think that the biggest deterrent to low scores is probably a good amount of rough and firm, fast greens. Not rough to where it's a hack out, but where you lose control. Last week in the rough you had control. So, I think that if the trend continues you'll continue to see a lot of low scores.
Q. Patrick Reed said yesterday if they wanted to, they could take the Stadium Course and make it a pretty tough golf course, but here you've got accommodate the pro-am part, too. Is that course a different golf course than you remember playing in Q-School? It wasn't that longs ago, obviously.
JASON DUFNER: No, I think it's about the same. It's an extremely tough golf course over there, but we know when we come to this tournament scoring is kind of a premium here, you're going to have to shoot 5-under or better every day to kind of feel like you're in it. The course is in great condition, there's a good bit of room to play on all three golf courses off the tee. There's some hazards you got to negotiate on the West, but they could make the West extremely tough if they got the rough up and the greens firm fast. But when we played Q-School it was pretty much the same, they want the test to be pretty equal for everybody, they're not trying to kill us out in Q-School either, so.
Q. You've got a pretty large Twitter following. You may have heard that tomorrow they're going to start of debut a new partnership between the PGA and Twitter, showing some live streaming of tomorrow's round. What do you think about that partnership and is that something that if you were a fan would you be interested in that?
JASON DUFNER: Yeah, I think that, obviously, I've avenues of using social media to reach fans of golf. Maybe that reach new fans that aren't big into golf, anything that you can do to capitalize on that is huge. It's extremely easy to use social media for the players and I think for the PGA TOUR, too. It's extremely easy for the fans to look at your phone and check out whatever might be playing. So I think it's a good resource to use for the PGA TOUR. I don't know exactly the numbers that we would be reaching, but I'm sure it's pretty large amount. Social media is almost kicking you guys out of a job, to be honest with you. If I was in the media, I would be worried about social media. But I think that, staying up with the technologies and staying up with what the people are interested in is always a great idea.
Q. When Tiger starts playing again in a couple weeks and presumably hopefully plays a lot of tournaments this year, what will he see out here that's changed from the last time that he played a full year?
JASON DUFNER: Probably not too much. I think there's probably some new names and some new faces that he was probably familiar with, but that have kind of rose to the top of the game with Jordan and Hideki and Justin Thomas now. So, it's pretty much the same out here for the most part. Things don't change too much. He hasn't been gone for like 20 years or anything like that. It's just been a couple. So I think everybody on TOUR's pretty excited to have him back. I'm sure that the top people at the PGA TOUR are excited to have him back. He pushes the needle more than anybody. Jordan and Jason Day and Rory are all fantastic players and have a great following and do so much for the TOUR, but all those guys combined don't really push the needle like Tiger does on a national level. So, it will be exciting, hopefully he can play a full year and play some good golf and mix it up. I know there's a lot of people rooting for him.
Q. Were nerves more of a factor last year on Sunday or when you were at Q-School?
JASON DUFNER: Probably Q-School. Because I know that if I didn't do it so good last Sunday here last year I would still get a pretty good paycheck. Q-School, you might get a sack of rocks to go home with and trying to figure out how you're going to pay your electric bill. So those were different days, it's a whole different story, that Q-School and fighting for your job compared to where I'm at now.
Q. Do you think back on that more when you're here and those memories come flooding back?
JASON DUFNER: Not too much. Try to forget about those days. Q-School can be a mess for some. I was successful a couple times and a couple times not. But my life is definitely in a better place now that I don't have to go to Q-School anymore.
Q. Would you like to see the more rough and courses be a little more challenging?
JASON DUFNER: Personally I would. Generally speaking, I play pretty well on tougher golf courses, with the exception of here and maybe Phoenix a couple times that I've played well, usually that kind of 6- to 10-under range is a good number for me. But, obviously, more birdies is more excitement and fans want to see more birdies than grinding out pars. I just wish we had maybe a better mix of, I don't want to say easy events, but better scoring events, kind of something in the middle and then a handful that are kind of like a U.S. Open test. I think that would be a good variety. But it is, I mean, the scores are getting lower, I think you're going to see more and more guys challenge that 59.
Q. (No Microphone.)
JASON DUFNER: I think some of it goes back to a little bit of the golf courses starting to become a little bit obsolete. I hate to say that, but I talked to Larry Nelson when he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont, I said, what were you hitting into No. 1 at Oakmont? Right? Traditionally, a historic, old style golf course. And he said, I was hitting 3s and 4-irons and driver off the tee. And I said, well, I hit driver and a pitching wedge three of the days and a sand wedge another day. So that's just how the game's changing. Golf courses need to probably adapt a little bit to that. I think longer golf courses will probably be in vogue a little bit in design. But I think that the biggest thing is if you get pretty thick rough and pretty firm greens, that's usually a goodie terrible rent on scoring.
DOUG MILNE: All right, Jason, thanks for your time, we appreciate it.
JASON DUFNER: Thank you.