South Africa’s MJ Daffue celebrated his recent PGA Tour status with a strong start in the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline as he came through round one just one shot off the lead.
Daffue, who recently earned his PGA Tour card via the Korn Ferry Tour, opened with a round of three-under-par 67 to place him tied second just one shot behind leader Adam Hadwin of Canada.
“I think a lot of things worked well. Obviously the putter. I put a lot of work in on the speed on the greens. I’m not used to US Open speed. That translated into leaving myself in good spots, making it as easy as I can. Sometimes it meant hitting it in the rough. We had a good strategy. I drove the ball pretty decent. The times I missed the fairway, I missed it in good spots, and so, yeah, execution of the strategy, and I would say I can’t believe how relaxed I was out there. I was able to feel my hands, and that’s a big deal,” said Daffue.
The South African shares a close relationship with double US Open champion Retief Goosen, who he says did have a few words of advice for him before this week.
“The one time I asked him, I said, ‘Hey, how do you do so well under pressure in US Opens?’ He said, ‘I’ve just done it a few times’. It makes a lot of sense, actually. The more you do it, the more you get used to it. But he has just been encouraging. He has been really sending me encouraging messages as far as, listen, the ability is there. It’s just how do you put it together and believe in yourself.”
Daffue said that finally securing his PGA Tour card has also helped him to play with a lot more freedom this week.
“I’ve been just so focused on my process and my goals, and I know that the ability is there. It’s just how do I bring it out. I think now I’ve finally probably started feeling the freedom because I’m, like, I secured my card next year, and maybe I can go for a few more things that I would never have. Yeah, it’s definitely some more freedom.
“But I’ve really tried to come into this week not putting too much pressure on myself, just trusting that I have everything right now that I want. My life is really good. I have a great family, and everybody is healthy, and I think just being grateful for things has really given me a step back and looking from the outside in, and eventually this is just a game. We’re playing against the best in the world, and it’s just a privilege to be here.”
Of the other South Africans in the field, Shaun Norris opened with a level-par 70, Branden Grace with a six-over-par 76, Louis Oosthuizen with a 77, and Erik van Rooyen with a 78.