Dufner avoids distractions, shoots second straight 68

Jason Dufner follows through on his tee shot at the first hole Friday.   The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Jason Dufner follows through on his tee shot at the first hole Friday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAPALUA — A look at social media shows some players in the SBS Tournament of Champions field taking advantage of Maui’s tourist attractions.

Jason Dufner isn’t one of them.

“I just came to play golf,” he said with a smile after Friday’s second round. “It’s a business trip.”

Dufner shot a 5-under-par 68 to get to 10-under 136 at the Kapalua Plantation Course, leaving him in fifth place, two shots behind co-leaders Justin Thomas and Ryan Moore.

Dufner punched his ticket back to the Valley Isle with a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January of last year — it was his first victory since hoisting the PGA Championship trophy in 2013.

Dufner dealt with injuries in 2014 and a divorce the next year. He has slimmed down and is eating healthy, he said, and has a new girlfriend he brought with him to the island.

“Just keeping a good routine tournament weeks and weeks off,” he said of his plans for the new year. “Trying to break up the year so that I’m fresh and excited and hungry to play each week.”

Dufner had six birdies Friday. His lone bogey of the round came on the final hole, after he missed a par putt from about 11 feet.

“I played pretty good,” he said. “Had some shots going left throughout the round — can’t really do that on the 18th hole. But I’m happy with how I played.”

While starting off consecutive years with a victory “would be nice,” Dufner said he doesn’t focus too much on winning. He said he is not quite at the form he would like to be, but is trying not to worry about it and looking to simply “play the game a little bit more.”

“You can play great and get beat out here or you can play average and win,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to come.”

* Chris Sugidono is at csugidono@mauinews.com

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