ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The golfer made famous by a photo of him passed out has made history by being unconscious.
Jason Dufner, the portly 36-year-old who spawned the Internet meme "Dufnering" when he dozed in front of a room of schoolchildren, bulldozed through Round 2 of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club to tie for the best round in major championship history. The Cleveland-born golfer with the classic golf name shot a 63, hit 15 of 18 greens and holed out an approach shot that would have been the moment of the day if the whole day weren't such a moment. Fridays aren't always known for buzz at these tournaments, but the blend of cult hero worship and sterling golf stirred a rain-drenched crowd into a certifiable frenzy.
Just ask "Dufs Dips," a band of Ottawa boys who drove four hours here to see their favorite pro and give him a red shirt they made with #Dufnering printed on the back. The Canadians were giddy as Dufner tore through the course with an array of perfectly-arced fades and clutch putts, stopping only to smile and tuck some tobacco into his lower lip.
"It's the lifestyle, man," raved one of the Dips in a Blue Jays cap, when asked about Dufner's appeal. He didn't elaborate about what aspect of the lifestyle, or even whether he was referring to Dufner's lifestyle or his own. No matter; on this day, the "lifestyle" was throwing darts.
Dufner did what some of the world's best golfers did not: take chances. He used driver on a course where it wasn't recommended, realizing the rains would soften and widen the fairways. Dufner's approach completely belied his soporific style, as he was fearless and aggressive all the way up until his 18-foot uphill putt for a 62, which he left short. No matter, the 63 was good enough to put him at 9-under for the tournament, two strokes in front of Jim Furyk, Matt Kucher and Adam Scott.
Dufner knew about the record, as he's a student of golf history. His Twitter icon is of the famous Hogan hole at Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia, where the U.S. Open was held this year. He refers to the historic golfer as "Mr. Hogan," even though Mr. Dufner has now torched Hogan's Oak Hill course record.
Dufner knew the all-time record for low round in a major was in reach as he worked his way up the back nine, attacking every pin as if it was a practice round. Behind the 16th green, a course official whispered, "I haven't seen any birdies here today." And Dufner promptly dropped a birdie putt. Behind the 17th hole, another course official whispered the exact same thing, and Dufner barely missed another. The final holes were that kind of difficult on Friday, and Dufner was that kind of incredible. His two-day total of 131 is a tie for the best 36 holes in PGA Championship history.
Dufner has flirted with golf destiny before. He got into a playoff at this tournament two years ago in Atlanta, and said it was the best golf he's ever played. But poor playoff putting doomed him, and he watched Keegan Bradley win his first major. Dufner tied for fourth in the U.S. Open at Merion this year, but he's only won two Tour events in seven years on tour. He's a mix of sure-shot and long-shot, and fans who love an everyman eat that up.
The final hole Friday was proof. He striped his drive and had 203 yards from the middle of the fairway. Stuck between a five-iron and a six, he went with the latter and let adrenaline do its work. Then he unleashed one of the most beautiful shots you'll ever see, a rainbow bending to the left and then back to the right, up against the blue sky and then the packed grandstand. The ball landed just below the hole and the crowd exploded in not only cheers, but giggles. The guy just had it. Overhead, a plane carried a huge banner saying, "Y'all Look Hungry." It was all just too perfect.
The missed putt will probably gnaw at him, but he'd already made a lifetime memory for the Dips. The boys found Jason's wife, Amanda, and gave her the shirt. She thanked them and then went to wait for her husband. Tiger Woods' swing coach, Sean Foley, walked up to her and said, "What's up, Mrs. Duf"? He noticed the shirt and she smiled as she mentioned the boys.
"They were pumped!" she said.
For the next several minutes she waited with the gift until Dufner came out to do his flurry of interviews. "It's tough to chase history," he explained to reporters in his deadpan way. "I'm not usually the first to do anything."
The boys were a few dozen feet away, hanging along a fence by the putting green, chanting, "63! 63! 63!" He grinned and waved, as always spending just enough energy to complete the task.
Moments later, in front of the clubhouse, officials hurried to put up another rope. "Dufner's coming!" one elderly woman shouted, as if it was the president. He emerged from a door and grinned again. "Jason!" one fan said, "can I have an autograph?!"
"Jason!" the fan said again, "can I have a 63?!"
Dufner got into a golf cart and slouched against the seat with his arms tucked by his sides – the exact pose that started a viral sensation.
This time, though, he was wide awake.
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