PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. –- Jason Dufner stood on Riviera Country Club’s 14th tee with a club in hand. He wasn’t preparing to hit a shot at the site of an annual PGA Tour stop, though. He was there to help his alma mater.
Dufner walked with Auburn during Monday’s NCAA Championship practice round, dispensing the wisdom he’s gained from his appearances at the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open. On the 14th, a 176-yard, par-3, he explained how the green’s right-to-left slope should influence which hole locations players should hit toward, and which they should avoid.
“(Riviera) is a golf course that you have to learn as you go,” said Dufner, now No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking. “There’s a lot of angles and different shots you have to learn out here. It can be tricky to pitch out of kikuyu and I don’t think a lot of the guys have experience putting on poa annua.”
Dufner came directly from Dallas, where he finished runner-up in the PGA Tour’s Crowne Plaza Invitational on Sunday. He flew to Los Angeles on a commercial flight, landing around midnight and checking into his hotel around 12:30 a.m.. He met the team at 9 a.m. Monday morning and rode in the team van to Riviera. He was planning to watch Auburn compete in Tuesday’s first round, then take a red-eye flight home Tuesday evening.
Dufner finished 52nd in this year’s Northern Trust Open and 29th the previous year. He inquired earlier this year about helping Auburn at Riviera, well before his fantastic recent run, which includes victories at the Zurich Classic and HP Byron Nelson Championship and a second-place finish at last week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational. He also got married May 5.
“Being close to the program is something I enjoy,” he said. “It’s kind of my way of giving back.”
Dufner was dressed as if he was ready to tee it up. The only differences from his normal on-course attire were the Auburn hat and sneakers that replaced spikes. He trolled the course often with a club in hand and occasionally hit chip shots. He often rolled balls on the greens to illustrate the advantages of being in certain positions. Auburn is No. 5 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
Dufner still lives in his college town and is a familiar site at the team’s practice facility.
“He’s very much just one of the guys,” said Auburn’s top player, Blayne Barber. “The day after he won the Zurich (Classic), he was out there talking trash to us on the putting green at our facility.”
Dufner held the lead with 10 holes remaining at the Crowne Plaza, but hit approach shots in the water on Nos. 9 and 15 and finished a shot behind Zach Johnson. Dufner has made $3,800,172 this season.
Dufner is not scheduled to compete again until the U.S. Open June 14-17 at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. He won’t compete between the U.S. Open and Open Championship, using the break to honeymoon in the Bahamas. Dufner also is planning to arrive at the Open Championship a week early to play links courses with friends.
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SHUFFLING THE DECK: David Chung’s prolonged slump has led to an unfortunate end to his college career. Chung, one of the world’s top amateurs in 2010, was left off Stanford’s NCAA Championship lineup after finishing 66th at the NCAA regional at Stanford’s home course.
“We made a little bit of a lineup change in the fifth spot, with (Steve) Kearney joining us,” Stanford head coach Conrad Ray said. “It’s tough not having David (Chung) there, but his game is in a bit of a funk right now and I felt we needed to shuffle the deck a little bit.”
Chung, a senior, shot 69-73-80 at the regional. He is No. 240 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. He started the spring with top-25s in three of his first four starts, but has finished no better than 47th in his past three starts.
Chung won the 2010 Western Amateur and Porter Cup, was runner-up in that year’s U.S. Amateur and was one of three players selected to represent the United States at the 2010 World Amateur Team Championship.
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COUNTRY OVER COLLEGE: Alabama-Birmingham is at the NCAA Championship without its No. 2 player, Jason Shufflebotham. The senior, from Presatyn, Wales, is playing the European Tour’s Wales Open instead. Shufflebotham is 194th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
He 22nd at the NCAA regional at Stanford Golf Course, including a final-round 66 that helped the team advance to Riviera.
Shufflebotham is joining Rhys Enoch and Rhys Pugh as amateurs in the field.