South African qualifier MJ Daffue puts the missing feel-good factor back into golf despite tumbling down the leaderboard after previously holding an early three-shot lead
- South African qualifier MJ Daffue had held an early three-shot US Open lead
- A relative unknown, Daffue had set the pace early on before a 40 shot back nine
- A double bogey on the 18th saw him tumble down the leaderboards on day two
A destructive back nine of 40 shots, including a double bogey at the 18th, saw the unknown South African MJ Daffue tumble down the leaderboard at the US Open, after setting the pace for much of yesterday morning.
A difficult afternoon of soul-searching, therefore, and long moments of contemplation as to what had gone wrong? Not when you hear the 33-year-old’s remarkable story. First world problems and all that, given all that he’s been through.
Six years ago, money was so tight in the Daffue household, he could only afford to play tournament golf once every month. The gentle soul from Pretoria ended up being diagnosed with depression.
Qualifier MJ Daffue is currently ranked at World No 296 having reached as high as 285
When he learned to live with his illness he entered Monday qualifiers for tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour, one rung below the PGA Tour. He failed to make it through in 19 out of 21 qualifiers at one point.
If you want an anecdote for all the nauseous tales of idle riches available on the Saudi-backed LIV Tour and therefore learn what life is really like for the vast majority of pro golfers, MJ is your man. No wonder he was still smiling at the finish, following a rollercoaster round of 72. What a story.
The realities of life at his level are such that even when he made it on to the Korn Ferry Tour this year, he didn’t think he could afford the time off to play in the US Open qualifier. ‘I didn’t want to miss an event because I wanted to concentrate on my dream of getting promotion to the PGA Tour,’ he explained.
Two top-three finishes in a row led to the upgrade he craved and a change of circumstances.
‘I had the freedom to go for a few things,’ he added. ‘I could play in the US Open qualifier and have a go for the mountain top.’
Daffue had set the pace with a three-shot lead before a forty-shot back nine on day two
Pronounced ‘Duffy’ by the way, he was a decent cricketer and rugby player before a game alongside two-time US Open Champion Retief Goosen at the age of 11 led to a switch in focus.
‘It changed everything regarding what I wanted to do with my life and it’s great that we’ve become close friends,’ said Daffue.
As the winds gusted and made life mean for everyone yesterday, he started to spill shots. Five dropped strokes in his last eight holes saw his three-shot lead evaporate but the romance did not disappear with it.
At one point he hit a beautiful three wood from a hospitality tent, the sort of shot only a man who’s seen so much could envisage. He finished with a one-under-par total of 139, and he would certainly have settled for that on Thursday morning.
‘Well this is certainly new,’ he smiled, as he was greeted by a small army of media at the conclusion of his round. Now he’s got the weekend of his life in front of him and nobody can say it hasn’t been hard-earned.