Dufner dealing with neck injury

Jason Dufner (AFP Photo)
Jason Dufner (AFP Photo)

Louisville - Defending champion Jason Dufner is pleased simply to be able to play in this week's PGA Championship after two bulging discs in his neck that have limited his golfing.

The 37-year-old American, who outdueled Jim Furyk to win his first major title last year at Oak Hill, was attempting his only practice round this year at Valhalla on the eve of the tournament.

"It's just an arthritic, degenerative issue that I'm probably going to be dealing with for a good bit," Dufner said.

"If I can get six to eight weeks of a strength, rehab, resting program, I feel like I can get better, but it's just something that's not going to change. I'm going to have to deal with it.

"It has been discouraging. I'm not swinging the way I would like to swing and I'm limited in what I can do."

Dufner's problems began at the Masters, vanished long enough for him to finish second in May at Colonial, then returned with a vengeance by the time he arrived at the US Open in June. An MRI exam in July diagnosed the problem and he had a procedure to numb the pain 10 days ago.

"I feel OK," Dufner said.

"Had the epidural last Monday. They like you to rest seven to 10 days after that. I haven't really been able to do that. So trying to rest, keep my reps down. I feel sore. I get a little fatigued quicker than usual. I'm probably not going to be healthy until I can take six to eight weeks off. Not sure when that's going to be. But I'll get through it."

The hinderances on Dufner's movements take a toll on his game. He missed the cut at the US Open, shared 51st at the British Open and 66th last week in a World Golf Championships event.

"Just lack of mobility, shoulder turn gets pretty restricted, pretty short, fatigue -- those are the things I deal with," Dufner said. "Mentally it's just frustrating to not really do what you know you're capable of. But I feel better than I did last week.

"I didn't play very well last week. I'm hoping this week I'll be able to feel a little bit better, get through 72 holes."

Dufner lurks inside the US Ryder Cup team on points entering this final week of qualifying and hopes to keep his US squad, although he said he would bow out if rest and treatment did not allow him to recover fully in time for next month's showdown with holders Europe at Gleneagles.

"That's an important thing for me to try and be part of, so hopefully I can have a good week," Dufner said.

Dufner sees his misfortune as something of a blessing.

"Since the US Open, it's been pretty poor healthwise for me, but to be honest, it's kind of a blessing," Dufner said. "I need to take a serious look at my health and maybe make a better effort to be in better shape."

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