Saturday, 18 June 2022 10:11

South Africa's MJ Daffue slips but stays in US Open contention.

Staff Reporter.

For a while on Friday, MJ Daffue led the US Open by three strokes. While that didn’t last, his second round of two-over-par 72 has left him in a share of 16th and just four shots off the lead in his first major championship.

It was a tale of two nines, as he made four birdies and a bogey on the front nine, but then three bogeys and a double on his way home. At one-under, he’s the only South African to have survived the cut, and he knows that two solid rounds will give him the most meaningful result of his career as well as a chance of getting after Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen who lead at five-under.

"I don’t think my goal is to win this week," said Daffue. "My goal is just to be the best I can be, and if the best I can be and the best I can play is good enough for that, then I’ve achieved what I wanted to achieve."

Perhaps the experience of letting things slip will be good for him as he takes lessons from that into the rest of the tournament. "Nothing really went through my head as far as, like, thinking about where I was on the scoreboard," he said. "I mean, I knew I was ahead by a few, but I would say I think I started losing focus on my clarity on my targets and how I’m envisioning my shots. I got a little quick in my process. I think that’s just obviously part of the nerves.

"I was calm. You know, if I made par on 18, we’d be having a different conversation. Even though it was a bad back nine, it was right there, and it’s small fixes, so it’s not something massive to fix."

One of the things he will want to fix is his tempo when things start going awry. His double-bogey on the 18th showcased how that can desert him. After his drive went left into some think grass between bunkers, his rapid execution of what looked like a ‘hail mary’ recovery simply put him in more trouble as he ended up in a greenside bunker, thinned that out over the back of the green, and then chunked his chip out of that rough to nearly 23 feet, and was unable to one-putt for bogey.

"I didn't drive the ball as good as I usually do," he said. "By not driving as good I left myself in tricky spots. You know, it starts off the tee. Even if you miss the fairway, if you miss in the right spot, you have a chance. So it got quick. It’s small things luckily, so I’ll be able to fix it coming tomorrow.

"I think it’s just your thought process, too. You think about your front number and the pin. When you stand over a shot, you’ve already forgotten your front number. There are so many things going through your head. I think I need to take maybe two, three sips of water before every shot. Kind of shock the system a little bit and make you realise you’re here.

"A few extra practice swings, deep breaths, all sorts of movement stuff. Just kind of staying loose. Not thinking about the shot until it is your time to hit because then you are wasting so much mental energy before it’s time to execute."

He will get to execute in the third round in the company of Adam Hadwin, the first-round leader. He’ll be far enough away from the sharp end of the tournament for him to be able to put his strategies into play.

"Once again, we’ll try our best the next two rounds, but whatever happens this week, you know, I've already done a lot of things here, and in the process, I was able to entertain some people today, too. It’s been good," he said.