The summer was dominated by old hands Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson re-ascending to the top two spots in the world, but the year in golf also featured some new names emerging as superstar personalities, perhaps none bigger than Jason Dufner.
The lumpy deadpan Auburn fanatic had made a dent on the world golf scene before 2013, but this was certainly a breakout year for Dufner. It started with the "Dufnering" meme ignited from a candid shot of a dour Duf sitting like a corpsicle while making an appearance at an elementary school. On the course, however, Dufner pushed his profile to the next level with his first career major win, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August.
Dufner's a relatively gregarious figure for golf, an engaging and entertaining Twitterer with a lip protruding from a giant wad of Copenhagen. But until August, he was probably best known on the course for a late collapse at the PGA in 2011 and for being an expressionless mime. That all began to change in 2012, when he won twice (and nearly three times) in the span of a month to get on the board with his first PGA Tour victories. It started to remove the stain of blowing a five-shot lead in four holes in Atlanta the prior year. A successful inaugural Ryder Cup appearance also helped burnish his image as one of the best upcoming talents in the game.
His 2013 season, however, slots him right at the top of that second tier behind Woods and Mickelson, and the win at Oak Hill cemented his status as a fan favorite. It started on Friday, when Dufner made his first charge up the leaderboard by matching the majors scoring record with a round of 63 (joining 23 others) and setting a new competitive course record. For much of the round, it looked like he was well on his way to becoming the first ever to shoot 62, a number boosted by his hole-out eagle on No. 2 at the historic Rochester setup.
Dufner is considered one of the best ball strikers in the game, puring his irons regularly, and that hole-out was a harbinger of repeated darts into Oak Hill's softened-up greens when it mattered most on the weekend. He had multiple chances over the final four holes to set a new record, but some shaky putting prevented one last birdie. It's a club that he's admittedly not confident with, but that shakiness would not carry over to the weekend.
And it seemed like he barely needed the putter on Sunday, as his approaches continued to drop right on top of the flagstick. Dufner was pushed by playing partner Jim Furyk, a former major champion but someone who was also trying to exorcise the memory of recent late collapses at major moments. Dufner didn't provide much of an opening, thanks to those approach shots that kept cozying up to the cup (here at No. 8):
Then, after exchanging blows with Furyk on the back nine and hanging on to avoid the blow-up hole that plagued him in 2011, Dufner stuck one on the 16th to up the ante:
While it appears that his facial nerves barely work on the course, the nerves with the hands on the putting surface are always fully exposed. That tap-in birdie, however, allowed him the cushion to bogey the final two holes coming in to hold off Furyk and capture a career-defining victory.
During a week in early August where there are not of ton of big sports stories jostling for your attention, Dufner's Sunday stroll took over. He had long been a personality that many identified with, and now the rest of the sports world was learning more about the character.
Doesn't quite have the profile of Tiger, but current PGA leader was once cover boy for East Alabama Living magazine pic.twitter.com/ZOG5F0tnzF— Brendan (@BrendanPorath) August 11, 2013
Guy that carries a backpack full of Copenhagen is about to win the PGA. #WDE— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) August 11, 2013
You know what copenhagen spit sounds like when it pings off the inside of sterling silver? Well, youre fixin to ... #wanamaker— Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) August 11, 2013
Adam Scott is the person every man sees in his mind when he imagines his life as a movie. Jason Dufner is what we see looking in the mirror.— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) August 10, 2013
Your 2013 PGA Championship winner - pic.twitter.com/J2hU0aApGh— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) August 11, 2013
Of course, thanks to an impressive Presidents Cup and the recent developments with his beloved Auburn Tigers, the year just keeps getting better and the headlines keep rolling in for the Duf. That one weekend in August, however, was one of the top stories that defined this year in golf.