Dufner drops putts, talks up the Browns

BY foxsports • August 1, 2013

AKRON, Ohio - Jason Dufner carried the burden of a personal slump into this week's World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
Dufner can handle it. He's also a proud, burden-carrying Cleveland sports fan. 
Dufner was born in Cleveland but moved to Florida as a middle-schooler. Before his parents divorced, he lived and played sports in Olmsted Township in the Cleveland Suburbs and said he came to Firestone Country Club to watch what was then called the World Series of Golf as a youngster. 
To be back playing in his second WGC-Bridgestone event with 15 or so family members and old friends following, Dufner said, "is obviously a total thrill."
Through one-round, at least, home-course advantage served Dufner well. He shot a 3-under 67 Thursday to put himself right in the mix in a star-studded field. 
For an extended homecoming, the world's No. 24 ranked golfer arrived in Northeast Ohio last weekend. He put in extra time Tuesday and Wednesday at Firestone Country Club looking to regain his confidence, but his first stop in public this week was about re-igniting his fandom. 
He watched from the sideline in Berea, Ohio Monday afternoon as the Cleveland Browns went through a training camp practice. 
"That was a pretty cool deal for me," Dufner said. "Football is probably my favorite sport. I've gotten to know (Browns quarterback) Brandon Weeden a little bit, played golf with him a little bit and kept in touch.
"It was nice to go over there, see Brandon, see everybody. That's a state of the art complex and I thought practice was run very efficiently. The fan in me is excited by what I saw. It all looked pretty good to me."
Dufner also roots for the Indians and Cavs and watches games "every chance" he gets. He's well aware no Cleveland major pro sports team has won a championship since 1964 -- 13 years before he was born -- but said he remains both "a real fan" and a believer. 
"It's tough being a Cleveland fan," Dufner said. "I hear it from the guys in the locker room
"We've had great history with our teams. It's been a while on a championship, that's all. Keep the faith."
After Monday's practice Dufner chatted with new Browns linebacker Quentin Groves, in addition to Weeden and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. 
"I know Quentin because we're both Auburn guys," Dufner said. "I think we've followed each other through our careers. Down there in SEC country, guys like (Groves) are never forgotten -- just like in the good days with the Browns. I remember him as a very good player. It was cool to see him. We wished each other luck." 
That extra work Dufner did with his putter on Tuesday and Wednesday at Firestone paid off Thursday as he birdied two of his first four holes, then finished with two more birdies in his last three. 
"When I'm putting it well, that's when I'm going well," Dufner said. "The ball-striking has been consistent. I've been working on putting the last couple months, and sometimes it takes that long to come around. 
"On this course I feel like I can be aggressive with my driver. I feel confident with my driver on this course, and that allows me to be aggressive going after pins. These hole locations are only going to get tougher as the week goes on."
Last year, Dufner was ranked No. 8 in the world when he made his Firestone debut. A tie for fourth in the U.S. Open in June is his only top-10 finish in 2013, and though he finished strong with a final-round 67 at the British Open, he was too far out of it to threaten. His second-best finish since the spring was a tie for 20th in the Masters. 
"It's been a struggle for much of the year, certainly not as good as what I'd like," Dufner said. "We have some great events coming up. It would be a good time to get things going back in the right direction."