Golf's word of 2013: Dufnering, Phrankenwood or something else?


The good people at the Oxford English Dictionary have chosen "selfie" as 2013's word of the year. While there’s been a wealth of professional golfers posting these types of self-aggrandizing pics on social media platforms this year – hey, let's face facts like they’ve faced the camera lens - it's clear that the dictionary people aren't hardcore fans of the game.

If they were, the word of the year would be “Dufnering.” You know, that sitting-on-his-hands thing that Jason Dufner did in a Texas classroom which was caught on camera and within 24 hours became an Internet meme.

In choosing selfie, the Oxford officials noted a 17,000 percent increase in usage of the word over a year ago. Well, guess what? Dufnering didn’t even exist a year ago, so that’s, what, about an infinity percent increase? Sorry, I’m not a math guy. But I know words – and Dufnering is a word that exploded this year.

But if memes aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other options. Like “anchoring.” The process of sticking the butt end of a putter where the sun don't shine - namely, a player's belly - didn't originate in 2013, but consternation over the issue reached epic proportions.

It was enough that the USGA and R&A jointly enacted an impending rule banning anchoring. Therein might lie the true definition of a word of the year: If it became so popular that it was banned, it's a solid candidate.

Conversely, a word can reach new levels simply by not being implemented. It was only last December when Graeme McDowell - one of the game's most prevalent thinkers - was asked for his thoughts on “bifurcation” and admitted he didn't know the meaning of the word.

These days there's rarely a golf fan - let alone a player - who doesn't understand that it means a separate set of rules for professionals and amateurs. The USGA and R&A have yet to implement this one, but that doesn't mean it hasn't made an impact on our language.

That's more of a golf-related term, of course. The same can't be said for the word "oscillate," which can be used to describe movement in everything from particles to pendulums. In our corner of the world, it was used ad nauseum to describe Tiger Woods' opinion of how his ball moved during a controversial incident at the BMW Championship.

Anytime a word receives -Gate treatment on the back end, it's a big deal. And so it was for OscillateGate.

Maybe all these rules-related words are too serious for the word of the year, though. Maybe we need something a little more fun. Something that isn't really a word after all. Something with a hip, funky spelling.

Enter "Phrankenwood."

That's the on-again, off-again half-driver, half-3-wood invented by Phil Mickelson and used throughout his three-victory season. And yes, it even spawned a 2.0 model called, of course, Son of Phrankenwood.

Or maybe the word of the year isn't just one word. For anyone who hasn't just watched a professional event but also listened to one this year, the terms "mashed potatoes" and "Baba Booey" have - quite unfortunately, most of us would agree - become major words in the game.

Don't believe it? Try listening to a big-time event for 10 minutes without hearing either one. I dare you.

With all of these candidates, I’m fully expecting the people at Oxford English Dictionary to issue golf a soulful and apologetic, “Sorry.”

Actually, that right there is our word of the year.

Sergio Garcia said it to Tiger Woods after insensitive comments; Phil Mickelson said it after criticizing California’s tax structure; Michelle Wie said it after walking off the green early at the Solheim Cup; D.H. Lee said it after gesturing with his middle finger; Yani Tseng said it after oversleeping; Bubba Watson said it after berating his caddie; and Butch Harmon, Steve Elkington, Chris Kirk and Stacy Lewis each said it after unrestrained Twitter rants.

So, there you have it. The word of the year is: Sorry.

And if you don’t like it, I’ll apologize.