SHANGHAI – Jason Dufner has been traveling the world before anyone knew who he was.
The PGA Champion first went to Australia for a Nationwide Tour event. He played a Tour de las Americas event in South America. He was the ''other American'' who received a sponsor's exemption to the Australian Masters in 2009 when record crowds watched Tiger Woods win at Kingston Heath.
''I've always wanted to go play different places in the world,'' Dufner said Tuesday at the HSBC Champions. ''Some of the guys I looked up were world players – Gary Player, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, guys like that. I think it's important for the game of golf. And now that I'm a higher-ranked player, it would be selfish for me not to do it. The game needs us to play more.''
Dufner even is contemplating European Tour membership for next year, though it might be too much on his plate.
He already plays two events in the Middle East. He can count the four majors and four World Golf Championships. The problem might be finding two more events in continental Europe.
''I've been kicking around the idea,'' he said. ''It's just figuring out what events might fit and what might not.''
DIALED IN: Heading into the final stretch of the season, Rory McIlroy was still tinkering with his equipment after the switch to Nike. He feels as if he finally has it figured out, thanks to a new combination of a driver with a slightly larger head, and a ball is softer around the greens.
Of course, it helps that he is swinging better than he has all year.
Asked if it was the best ball-driver combination he has had all season, McIlroy thought for a moment and replied, ''It's the best ball-driver I've ever had.''
''It's the highest ball speed I ever got – 184 mph ball speed, which is high,'' he said. ''This is the first year I comfortably going into the 180s in all speed, and this has upped it again. I feel comfortable with it. And the most comforting thing is I'm swinging the club well.''
RYDER CUP: Padraig Harrington winced when asked if he would like to be a vice captain next year in Scotland at the Ryder Cup because it brings up the possibility the three-time major champion might not make the team.
''If I didn't make the team, I would be delighted to be a vice captain,'' Harrington said.
He said he has not spoken to European Captain Paul McGinley, and McGinley hasn't said anything to him. It's a conversation he hopes doesn't take place.
''I'm in that situation that I hope he's not thinking like that,'' Harrington said.
DIVOTS: The European Tour returns to South Korea next year, even though it lost Ballantine's as a title sponsor. The tournament will be played May 1-4 at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon. The tour said it would announce a new title sponsor later. ... Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is indebted to Soren Kjeldsen. The Spaniard forgot his wide-brim Cleveland visor last week, so he played without a hat. He won the BMW Masters, and for the trophy presentation, borrowed Kjeldsen's Cleveland visor so his primary sponsor could get its due in the victory photos.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy (24) is the only player in his 20s in the top 10 of the world ranking.
FINAL WORD: ''When I was an amateur, it didn't mean much about me going up and down scorewise. And now it's pretty much $1,000 on the line. I've just got to learn to not think about that and just enjoy myself.'' – Lydia Ko on joining the LPGA Tour next year.