World Number Eight Jason Dufner will make his Arabian Gulf debut at the eighth Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship - running January 17-20 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
After commanding international attention with a dramatic runner-up finish at the 2011 PGA Championship, the laconic Dufner - a laid-back precision striker who started the year ranked World Number 35 – has surged into the top 10 following an action-packed run of results on home and foreign fairways.
In addition to clinching his first two PGA Tour victories, eight top 10 finishes and a hard-earned 3-1 record on his September Ryder Cup debut, Cleveland-born Dufner, whose swing has earned comparison with the great Ben Hogan, rubberstamped his watershed season with a joint second-place finish in the WGC-HSBC Championship in China earlier this month.
Well-known for his meticulous preparation, the 35 year old is already devising a game-plan to outwit a star-studded field that includes the world’s top two players, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, in his hunt for Abu Dhabi’s prestigious falcon trophy and a share of the Championship’s US $2.7m prize purse.
“It’s been quite a year for me and one where so many positive things happened in my life,” said Dufner, who also married his long-term girlfriend in May. “The pressure that comes with success is that you want to keep progressing, so it made perfect sense for me to take up the challenge of playing in Abu Dhabi - it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.
“Winning my first two tournaments allowed me to relax and I’ve gained a lot of confidence knowing I can go out there and beat the world’s top players. I’m hoping a fresh New Year’s start in Abu Dhabi will keep me focused and that new surroundings help me to build on the success I’ve had this year.”
After carrying away winners’ trophies in both the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the HP Byron Nelson Championship, self-taught Dufner is keen to add the falcon trophy to his cabinet. “It looks like a really special trophy,” he said. “The falcon is synonymous with Abu Dhabi, so it would be a great reminder of my first time playing in the Gulf - which players the world over talk about as a destination with fantastic golf courses.”
The National Course, well-known for thick rough and tricky-to-read grains, also appeals. “I’ve heard the course rewards accuracy so it should suit my game,” added Dufner. “I’ll make sure I get to Abu Dhabi a few days early, get some sunshine and shake off the winter cobwebs. I want to be ready to roll on the first hole.”