Keegan Bradley thought his tweet was just a jab at a good friend.
In the Internet food chain that created the social media craze known as #Dufnering, Bradley was fourth, trailing the video journalist who took the picture, the person who first tweeted it and Deadspin.
But pushed by Deadspin’s and Bradley’s combined 670,000 Twitter followers, PGA Tour pro Jason Dufner became the sultan of sloth in a matter of hours.
Rather than lash out at Bradley, the only person within lashing distance, Cleveland native Dufner embraced the phenomenon. So much so that he said he and Bradley actually considered obtaining its trademark.
“We looked into that,” Dufner admitted after shooting a 3-under 67 Thursday in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. “[But we decided to] just let it go, let them have fun with it.”
#Dufnering originated on March 28, when Dufner was photographed slouching against a wall during a charity event at the Salesmanship Youth and Family Center in Dallas, where he was also attending media day as defending champion of the Byron Nelson Championship. Given a chance to offer extenuating circumstances — such as an early morning wake-up call or a delayed flight the night before — the laid-back Dufner owned up.
“No explanation,” Dufner said Thursday. “Whoever took that picture caught me in a true moment of just spacing out.”
Asked his wife Amanda’s reaction, Dufner said, “She sees it all the time, so she’s used to it.”
That evening, Bradley spied the photograph on Twitter and passed it on. A few tweets later, with fellow pros Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler mimicking Dufner in photos of themselves, the meme #Dufnering was born.
“I couldn’t believe how much it blew up,” Bradley said Tuesday.
Now on the Internet there are T-shirts reading “Everyday I’m Dufnering,” sold in 10 colors. Pictures are everywhere on Twitter and Instagram — even Tiger Woods’ girlfriend, Lindsay Vonn, posed with Dufner during a British Open practice round. Dogs, cats and polar bears have been caught #Dufnering.
Dufner embraces it all, saying he never considered it a negative.
“As soon as people starting responding like they did, I kind of ran with it,” he said. “It worked out great. [Bradley] tried to jab at me, but I got a lot more exposure from it than he probably thought.
“I think he was trying to get at me, like, ‘Look at this idiot.’ People think that it’s unique and kind of fun about me. Sometimes you’ve got to be unique to be No. 1.”
Dufner needed a hook, especially when matched up against Bradley. Bradley has plenty — most notably his maddening pre-shot routine and the strange way he eyeballs his putts.
The Twitter phenomenon has only strengthened the bond between Bradley and Dufner, illustrated in a recent episode of Feherty on the Golf Channel.
But those outside the golf community might wonder how they are even speaking after Bradley beat Dufner in a three-hole playoff at the 2011 PGA Championship. It’s hard to imagine Tiger Woods striking up such a relationship with Y.E. Yang after Yang beat Woods in the 2009 PGA at Hazeltine, or Woods and Sergio Garcia joking about Woods’ 1-shot victory at Medinah in 1999.
Two years ago at Atlanta Athletic Club, Bradley came from 5 strokes behind with three to play as Dufner made three consecutive bogeys, starting with a ball hit in the water at the 15th hole.
“That’s golf,” Dufner said Thursday. “I’m happy for him. Unfortunately I wish I’d won. I didn’t know him very well at the time. He played fantastic coming down [the stretch]. You don’t hold that against a guy.”
Last year, they became Ryder Cup teammates and spent more time together in practice rounds and over lunch. That has continued, although it might not extend to dinner. Dufner, 36, is married; Bradley, 27, is single.
“I don’t think he’d want to be tagging along with us,” Dufner said.
Bradley said he enjoys playing and hanging out with Dufner as much as anyone on the tour.
“I can kid him about the PGA, he’ll take it and make fun of me about something else,” Bradley said two days before he opened defense of his Bridgestone Invitational title with a round of 4-under 66.
Their brotherhood was born of mutual respect after one electric day at the PGA, but what keeps it alive are the digs they exchange on Twitter when Bradley is at home in Jupiter, Fla., and Dufner in Auburn, Ala.
Bradley knows he must have his radar up. Even when Dufner is #Dufnering, he’s surely looking to get even.
“Oh, I’m always on alert when he’s around,” Bradley joked Thursday. “I’m sure he’s planning something. I’m nervous.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ. and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.