MJ Daffue escapes from hospitality area, but it's downhill from there

·3 min read

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Through 27 holes of the U.S. Open, M.J. Daffue was 6 under par and leading by three strokes. For a Grand Slam rookie, it was a dream come true.

“I did tell myself, enjoy it,” said Daffue, a Korn Ferry Tour player poised to play his first season on the PGA Tour next year. “Not a lot of people get to lead the U.S. Open by three shots. I just told myself, enjoy it. You've done a lot of work. It's finally paying off.”

But fortunes can change quickly at the national championship. A bogey at the 11th cut his advantage to two and then things got really interesting at the par-5 14th.

After pulling his tee shot into a hospitality area, Daffue decided it was better to play off the artificial turf than to take a drop in the juicy rough. Navigating fans, a railing and an overhanging tree, he laced a fairway wood 284 yards, his ball finishing just left of the putting surface.

Highlight: Daffue hits shot from hospitality area

Seemingly having done the hard part, Daffue then butchered the easier task. The 33-year-old South African chunked his chip shot and then chipped again, his ball rolling out 9 feet past the hole. He missed his par putt and made bogey-6.

"I had an option to drop it, but it would have been in the thick rough. I don't think from there I would have been able to get it onto the second fairway, and I didn't want to hit a 7-iron to a blind target, but I have a 4-wood in the bag, and the lie on it is so good on the hospitality," Daffue explained after his round.

"For me, I was far enough left to actually miss the tree on the left. I think it was an awesome shot, but a birdie would have been better than a bogey."

Full-field scores from U.S. Open

Daffue walked off the 14th green up one. Another dropped shot at the 15th erased his outright lead completely. While he was able to salvage par on Nos. 16 and 17, his finish was costly. Daffue, currently fourth on the KFT's season-long points list, hit his tee shot on the par-4 18th into an awkward spot above a fairway bunker. He hacked out into the front greenside bunker, but then bladed his third shot over the green. He failed to get up and down from there and made double bogey.

Daffue posted nines of 32 and 40, for a 2-over 72. Although the poor finish dropped Daffue into a tie for 17th place, at 1 under par, he said the enormity of the moment and holding his first lead in a major championship didn’t overwhelm him.

“My thought process and everything was still good, so it wasn't too bad," he said. "I've been way more nervous than I was today."