Masters notebook

jheeter@macon.comApril 9, 2014 

— Despite more than a year of playing solid golf, Jason Dufner became a household name among golf fans in 2013 for the social media craze of "Dufnering" and for winning the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August.

"Dufnering" caught on after a photographer caught Dufner lounging on the floor at a grade school. Golfers and fans embraced the trend, but the former Auburn standout became known for his play after his major championship victory.

"I have a little bit more confidence, just from being able to win (the PGA Championship)," Dufner said. "I’m looking forward to the week and hopefully maybe contending and having another chance to win another major championship here at Augusta."

The 37-year-old kicked off his run of good play by losing in a playoff to Keegan Bradley in the 2011 PGA Championship. Dufner won twice in 2012 and made the Ryder Cup team and the President’s Cup team in 2013 (he went 6-2 in those two competitions). Dufner has three top-10 finishes in 2014. Quiet presence

Think about the top American golfers.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar, Dufner or Jim Furyk might come to mind.

But none of those players rest atop the U.S. Ryder Cup and FedEx Cup standings heading into the Masters.

That distinction belongs to late bloomer Jimmy Walker.

Walker won the season-opening Frys.com Open in October -- it was first win in his 188th PGA Tour start -- and followed that with wins in the Sony Open in January and at Pebble Beach in February. The 35-year-old has vaulted to No. 24 in the Official World Golf Rankings. He is only the fourth player -- Woods, Mickelson and David Duval -- since 1995 to win three events in eight or fewer starts to begin a season. Walker is the second player in 44 years to win three times before his first Masters appearance.

"(My heart) was racing (Sunday) night when I was lying in bed," Walker said. "I said, ‘Man, it’s just right across the street. It really is. I’m kind of ready to go.’ I think we all get the first-tee jitters, and we get nervous, and I do get nervous before I go play golf, and it’s a good nervous."

Rounding into form, Henrik Stenson capped a strong 2013 season by winning the season-ending FedEx Cup. He won the Deutsche Bank Championship and the Tour Championship during the four-tournament FedEx Cup playoffs. The 38-year-old Swede also finished second at the British Open and third at the PGA Championship.

Stenson started the 2014 season with wrist and forearm injuries but has started to round into form heading into the Masters. He finished tied for 16th at Doral and tied for fifth at Bay Hill in March. He is currently ranked third in the world and could move to No. 1 this week with a win.

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