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Dufner ready to leave 'journeyman' status behind

Jason Dufner turns 35 on Saturday and feels it's high time he went from journeyman to really challenging the modern game's elite at the April 5-8 Masters. And the signs are there.

An opening 66 at Bay Hill on Thursday gave Dufner a share of the Arnold Palmer Invitational lead with South Korean Charlie Wi -- the third time in as many tournament's that he has had at least a share of top spot.

After last season's PGA Championship, where he finished runner-up after losing a playoff to fellow-American Keegan Bradley, it is by no means impossible that Dufner could be considered a contender at Augusta.

"Definitely. I think my game is a pretty good set up for that golf course," Dufner told reporters. "This is probably the first time in my career I can actually think about winning those types of tournaments."

Dufner, who spent over five years on the second-tier Nationwide Tour, has yet to win on the PGA Tour however, despite threatening to do so on this Florida swing.

"I am looking to close a little better on the weekend and try to close one of these tournaments out and get a win," he said. "That would really boost my confidence heading to the Masters. I love Augusta. I love everything about the Masters and that tournament.

"I'm starting to think about the shots I might need for that golf course practice-wise and I am going to head up there pretty early next week and prepare - which is something different for me."

"I kind of proved to myself that I can compete out here. Maybe not every week but on some weeks, I can really get after it and play well," said Dufner.

"It gave me a lot of confidence to shoot low scores and be comfortable competing against some of the best players in the world."

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