JACKSON, Miss. — It was just another manic Monday for MJ Daffue. After shooting 69 at the Monday Qualifier for the Sanderson Farms Championship, Daffue survived an 8-for-2 playoff to earn one of four spots into this week’s PGA Tour event.
“The first group, two guys made birdie, so basically you know if you don’t make birdie, you don’t move on,” he said. “Eventually, seven holes later, one guy made par on a par-5, which ended – in today’s game, you can’t make pars on par-5s really.”
Daffue (pronounced Duff-ee) is making the most of his opportunity, following up an opening-round 65 with a 3-under 69 on Friday to grab the 36-hole clubhouse lead at 10-under 134. The South African Daffue is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Canadian Corey Conners, who was the last player to qualify on Monday and hoist the trophy on Sunday when he did so at the 2019 Valero Texas Open.
Like Patrick Reed and T.J. Vogel before him, Daffue is beginning to get a reputation for Monday magic. He’s earned a spot into the tournament field in nine of his last 14 Monday qualifiers between the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour. When asked to explain what he attributes his success to, he shot back, “You’re trying to give away my secrets now? Well, in all honesty, I feel like this game in general, every round you play, if you putt 18 times for birdie, you should be all right …When you get into a playoff you can’t just make a par. You’ve got to make birdies and get through. I guess every round to me, I just take it as a Monday qualifier.”
Daffue played his first 30 holes of the tournament without a bogey at the Country Club of Jackson. He started on the back nine on Friday and knocked a short iron to 5 feet for his first birdie of the day at No. 13. He reeled off three birdies in a row after making the turn, holing putts of 13, 14 and 8 feet. Daffue is making his fifth PGA Tour start, with four made cuts and a T-22 finish at the Workday Charity Open in July, where he banked nearly $60,000. That will help pay for a lot of diapers. Daffue and his wife welcome their first child, Oliver, six weeks ago.
Daffue grew up in Pretoria, the same town as 2019 John Deere Classic winner Dylan Frittelli, and competed against the likes of fellow Tour pros Branden Grace, Brandon Stone, George Coetzee and Erik van Rooyen. When Daffue was 11, he met two-time major winner Retief Goosen.
“My dad worked with his brother. We’re actually really good friends now, and it’s kind of a dream come true being able to be good friends with your idol or your role model,” Daffue said.
He earned a college scholarship and came to the United States to play first at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, and then at Lamar University in Texas, where he was named Southland Conference Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012. He is using his old college bag this week.
Daffue met his wife Kamie in Texas and they call the Kingwood community of Houston home. He was leading a Hooters Tour event in South Carolina in May 2013 when he got a call that his mother-in-law, Jill Badeaux, tripped and fell at a street corner in front of a car going 35 mph. She was rushed to the hospital and, after a series of surgeries, declared brain dead. Daffue took her death hard.
“I never had much pain in my life. I didn’t know how to deal with it,” he said.
Eventually, he learned that it was best to talk about it and not let his sadness bottle up. A conversation with his pastor proved to be a turning point for Daffue.
“Golf was everything to me and the pastor at our church told me if you’re nothing without golf you’re not going to be anything with golf. I had to see where I could find my happiness,” he said.
Daffue is halfway to a life-changing victory, but after learning not to get too excited about simply getting into an event, he’s focused on playing the long game.
“I try not to think about it,” he said of what a win would mean to him. “Trying to do everything at once, get all those points at once or trying to win, it will really eat at you. So I’m just trying to chip away at it.”