One player on the Workday Charity Open leaderboard isn’t like the others.
You’d have to scroll until your fingers got tired to find MJ Daffue’s world ranking: 1,373.
Daffue (pronounced Duffy) is a 31-year-old South African who has played in only one previous PGA event. He finished tied for 52nd in this year’s Puerto Rico Open. He has made only $41,088 in 10 career events on the Korn Ferry Tour.
He got into the Workday tournament through Monday qualifying and began Saturday looking likely to miss the cut. It became the most memorable day of his career.
After shooting a 72 on Thursday, Daffue couldn’t finish his second round on Friday because of the weather delays. When Daffue got to his final hole – No. 9 – he knew he needed a birdie to get to 2 under and make the cut. Daffue knocked a pitching wedge two feet from the cup and made the putt for a 69 to ensure a weekend paycheck.
That was just a prelude to his third round later in the day. He shot a bogey-free 65, including an eagle on the par-5 No. 7 hole, to climb to a tie for eighth place at 9 under.
“I think I got everything out of my round I could,” Daffue said. “I had a chip-in (after hitting in the water on No. 5 to save par) and made some par putts, but I’ve been seeing the lines very good.”
It’s been a long time coming. Daffue graduated from Lamar University in 2012 and has played on the Hooters tour as well as in South Africa and Europe. He said his career went south after a tragic accident to his mother-in-law. Daffue said she died after she tripped over a manhole and was then hit by a car.
“I wouldn’t say that it was caused by her death, but obviously I was struggling with a few problems like depression and stuff like that,” he said. “It affected my game, especially when you start playing bad. You just go deeper into the hole.
“Obviously it’s been a long journey — not what I thought it was going to be coming out of college. But I’ll take where I’m standing right now even though all this stuff happened. It happens for a reason, and I feel like I just needed to do a better job of learning and understanding what happens in life so I could translate it better to the golf course.”
It happened on Saturday.
“It’s great,” Daffue said. “I’m pretty tired. Our wave (of golfers), we had to sit around the whole day yesterday and played all the holes until 9, go home, sleep, wake up, finish and get back at it. So it will be nice to be able to grab a decent dinner and relax.”
On Sunday, he’ll be in line for the biggest paycheck of his career.
“I haven’t really thought about the money, to be honest,” Daffue said. “I’m trying to get top 10 so I can go play in Minnesota (at the 3M Open in two weeks). All I can do is just hit a lot of greens in regulation and see where I end up.”