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Daffue goes from a great advantage to a great crisis at the US Open

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BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — MJ Daffue’s troubles at the US Open on Friday began with a cheap carpet in a hospitality suite on left 14th fairway.

I wish that had been the worst.

There was nothing about Daffue’s shot from the hospitality suite deck that could have predicted his freefall from 6-under and a three-shot lead outside the top 10 at the end of his second round. He hit that shot over the rail, then sailed about 250 yards to the left side of the green, almost at pin height.

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But he missed the first pitch and bogeyed. He followed up with another bogey at No. 15, then cut a fair ball from a greenside bunker at No. 18 to finish with a double bogey there.

The South African shot 2 over 72 and closed the day 1 under after spending most of the morning alone in the lead.

“A crazy battle,” said Daffue. “Obviously, I am disappointed. But you expect that at some point during the week at the US Open, the golf course will come and bite us.”

It’s hardly the worst Daffe has been through.

A story on pgatour.com details the depression and self-doubt that have been a part of Daffe’s life for the past decade. It started when his future mother-in-law died in a freak accident. He continued when the financial pressure of making a living playing golf became almost too much.

Most recently, he suffered a bout of COVID-19. But golf and life have gotten better lately. A string of strong finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour has helped him secure his 2022-23 PGA Tour card. He finished that in time to play in a US Open qualifier that hadn’t originally been on his schedule.

He came in at No. 296 for the week. Some of the best advice he’s gotten over the years has come from someone in his country who knows a little about the US Open. Two-time champion Retief Goosen has been a mentor to Daffue.

“He has given me some simple advice,” Daffue said. “It’s not about doing too much. Hit the center of the greens. Stay within yourself and focus on the six feet that directly surround you.”

GM’S DECISION

Dustin Johnson wasn’t worried about how he would be received by fans or his peers after signing a large amount of Saudi money to play the LIV Golf series.

On the other hand, Johnson doesn’t care too much.

“I haven’t really noticed any difference,” he said after a 3-for-73 that dropped him in the middle of the pack heading into the weekend.

Johnson’s name was the biggest surprise on the roster for the first LIV event outside of London, mainly because he has been the best golfer in the last decade and had said in February that he would stay. The Daily Telegraphy reported that he was given $150 million to sign.

Johnson was among those who gave up his PGA Tour membership and quickly lost his sponsorship with the Royal Bank of Canada.

“It was a tough decision, but I feel very confident in the decision that I made,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely happy and I’m obviously looking forward to this weekend and the rest of the events this year.”

Johnson has gone 16 months without a win, leaving with Saudi International in early 2021, and his world ranking has dropped to No. 16.

HARDY’S PLAN

Except for a withdrawal on Thursday, Nick Hardy may be listed as the last player to enter the US Open. The USGA was saving a spot in case either Cameron Champ or JJ Spaun won the Canadian Open, which would have been their second PGA Tour victory in the last 12 months, and thus exempted them.

They both missed the cut and Hardy was in. And now he will be among the last players to tee off before the weekend at The Country Club after rounds of 69-68 for a 3-under 137.

This is his fourth US Open, and he’s already different from the others because of how few holes Hardy has played all week. That wasn’t entirely by design. He injured a tendon in his wrist hitting a deep rough shot in New Orleans. That kept him out for five weeks, and he said he went 30 days without swinging.

While he didn’t follow through on a promise to find a hobby, the free time at least taught him to slow down.

“I learned that I don’t need to be out six, seven, eight hours a day grinding,” he said. “I don’t need to be playing a stick every day to keep doing it and feel good.”

There were times at previous US Opens where I was playing 36 or 45 holes before the first round. This week, he played 18 holes on Tuesday and only did light work on Wednesday.

It seems to be working.

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AP golf writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

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More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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