Dufner sees popularity grow in wake of viral sensation

04/17/2013 1:02 AM

04/17/2013 1:25 AM

Jason Dufner sat on the floor of the Salesmanship Youth and Family Center in Dallas, his back propped up against the wall with his hands resting underneath his legs.

What was supposed to be just an ordinary charity event following his win at the Byron Nelson Championship a year earlier turned into anything but for the 36-year-old. Instead, Dufner found himself at the center of the latest viral sensation after a photographer captured a less-than-thrilled expression on his face, in turn creating a new internet craze following in the footsteps of such poses like Tebowing and planking.

"It's been pretty nonstop for the last month or so," Dufner said following his practice round Tuesday at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

It started when Deadspin, a popular sports website, got hold of the photo that showed Dufner surrounded by a group of children in a classroom. The craze exploded when fellow golfers Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson tweeted out pictures of themselves in the now infamous pose, which has conveniently been dubbed "Dufnering."

It's now expanded to practically each and every event Dufner takes part in, including last week's trip to the Masters, where the former Auburn standout finished tied for 20th thanks to the 69 he fired in the second round.

"It's turned out to be a pretty good thing," he said. "A little bit more awareness of Jason Dufner. I tried to run with it the best I can."

Dufner has taken the good-natured ribbing in stride. He retweets pictures fans send him and acknowledges those he sees around the course emulating his pose. It's something he hopes helps build his following this week at Harbour Town Golf Links, where players like Boo Weekley garner most of the fan support.

"I hope so," he said, while adding that he thinks his following has been growing over the last year. "It's always good to have people out there pulling for you."

While golf's latest meme is all fun and games for Dufner off the course, the Cleveland native remains all business on it. He is visiting Hilton Head Island for the fifth consecutive year, having carded top-25 finishes in each of the last two trips, including a tie for 14th in 2011.

He fired a 66 in the second round a year ago on the way to a tie for 24th after finishing 6 under for the tournament the year prior. Dufner also finished at 2 under in 2010 and 3 under in 2009.

"I think it's got a good mix of holes," he said. "Obviously, accuracy and position off the tee is vital to playing well out here. You've got some green complexes that are difficult if you're on one side or the other on the fairway.

"I've had some good scores. I haven't quite been able to put four together for this week. But I feel like this is a good course for me to play well."

Recent success bodes well for Dufner's chances. He's made five of seven cuts so far in 2013 -- including a trio of top-25 finishes -- and is 84th on the money list.

Dufner continues to work on his ball striking, he said, after a disappointing showing in that category at Augusta National. He hit "three or four balls a day" that were nearly out of play.

"Last week my driver let me down, which was a little uncharacteristic for me," he said. "So I've been trying to sort that out a little bit. Just trying to get ready for this stretch of golf."

"All in all, it was a little bit better than what I've done at that event," he added. "Same thing this week. You've got to put your ball in play off the tee. If you can get it in play off the tee, you've got some (opportunities) to be aggressive."

Dufner knows success at the RBC Heritage will only add to his rising fanbase. But should that not work out, he will still have his Dufnering followers to lean back on.

"They try to get you to react to it a little bit here and there," he said. "But it's all in good fun."

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