South Africa’s MJ Daffue grabbed a three-stroke lead early in Friday’s second round of the US Open before coming back down to earth on the back nine.
Daffue, making his Major debut, birdied four of the first seven holes to reach six under par at The Country Club, three strokes ahead of overnight leader Adam Hadwin and four others, including Rory McIlroy.
A journeyman on developmental tours, the 33-year-old Daffue said he didn’t plan to try to qualify for the US Open but locked up a PGA Tour spot for next season and changed his mind at the last minute.
Daffue, out in the second group off the first tee, sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the 1st hole to match Hadwin, took a three-putt bogey at the par-three 2nd to fall back, then made a birdie putt from just outside nine feet at the 4th.
At the par-four 5th, Daffue found a greenside bunker off the tee, blasted to just inside seven feet of the cup and sank the putt to seize the lead alone. He followed with a birdie at the 7th to stretch his advantage.
However, a back-nine 40, which included three bogeys and a double-bogey at the 18th, left Daffue at one under, four shots behind co-leaders Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen.
“I would say I think I started losing focus on my clarity on my targets and how I’m envisioning my shots,” Daffue said. “I got a little quick in my process. That’s just obviously part of the nerves.”
At the 11th, Daffue made a mistake on the yardage he wanted to hit.
“It’s just your thought process, too,” he said. “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.”
The other four South Africans in the field – Branden Grace, Shaun Norris, Louis Oosthuizen and Erik van Rooyen – all failed to make the cut.