Jason Dufner WDs from PGA with neck pain
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As if the 214-yard drive that went dead left at the first hole weren’t a giveaway, the sloppy three-putt from 30 feet at Valhalla Golf Club's sixth hole spoke volumes for the state of his game. Finally, when Jason Dufner was able to only drive it 254 yards at the par-5 10th – this being where 300-yard blasts were routine – common sense prevailed.
“I’m not competitive,” Dufner said. “I can only do more damage.”
Thus was his title defense at the 96th PGA Championship over just 10 holes and 48 swings in. Cause of withdrawal: a pain in the neck. Dufner has been living with it for weeks, even going so far as to have an epidural last weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Previously, he had undergone an MRI. He knew what he was dealing with and stubbornly tried to play through it, partly because he was trying to keep his place among the top 9 in the Ryder Cup standings (he’s eighth), partly because it’s a big time of year, with the FedEx Cup playoffs on the doorstep.
PHOTOS: 2014 PGA Championship, Thurs.
See photos from the first round of the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla.
But sitting 8 over for his 10 holes was a clear indication that this just wasn’t going to work. The other indicator was the way he felt.
“Overall fatigue, tired, shoulder tightness, numbness, dead arm, no feeling in my left hand,” Dufner said. “Everybody out here’s a competitor. You want to be able to compete. You want to be able to play. But I’m out there hacking it around and not being able to do anything close to what you’re (capable of), your arm’s dead, you can’t feel your hands. What’s the point in playing?”
Dufner insisted that the quest to nail down a Ryder Cup berth was being brushed aside. “I’m not thinking about anything but getting healthy. (Ryder Cup) is secondary. Don’t know when I’ll be able to play again. Couldn’t tell you. But I won’t play again till I’m healthy. That could be at Barclays (in two weeks); that could be next year; that could be 2016. I refuse to be out there and not be healthy and not giving yourself a chance to be competitive.”
Although Dufner is barely inside the top-9 cutoff to being an automatic pick, it’s not as if the pursuers had blistering days. No. 10 Phil Mickelson did shoot 69, and Brendon Todd posted a 70, but Nos. 12-18 all shot 73s or 74s. In other words, it’s not inconceivable that Dufner could maintain a top-9 automatic pick. Then, it would become a waiting game to see whether his health might improve.
Sitting nearby as Dufner talked with reporters next to his courtesy car, wife Amanda and Kevin Baile, Dufner’s best friend and caddie, waited patiently. In a way, each seemed relieved.
“He has needed rest for a while,” Amanda Dufner said. “But it’s such a busy time of year.”
Offering praise for Dufner’s toughness, Baile gave his man credit for making the wise decision. “I was just hoping he doesn’t get hurt any more. There’s a difference between quitting and not being able to play.”