BROOKLINE, Mass. – MJ Daffue of South Africa, ranked 296th in the world, was not invited to the hospitality tent near the par-5 14th hole during the second round of the US Open on Friday. But when his tee shot came to rest on the tent’s carpeted balcony next to a tree trunk, fence railing and overhanging, leaf-filled branches, Daffue was welcomed to the party.
Eschewing the safety of a free drop on nearby grass, Daffue, who was leading the US Open at the time, decided to use a 4-wood to smack his ball around the tree trunk, over the railing and under the branches to the 14th green. 278 yards away.
Nick Faldo, an NBC analyst, yelped: “What is he thinking?”
As fans held drinks tinkling with ice nearby, Daffue implausibly curved his shot away from all danger and watched as his golf ball settled off the feet to the 14th green on an eagle that would extend his improbable lead.
“Made bogey instead, unfortunately,” said Daffue, who never held the second-round lead again. “It was kind of a crazy day out there.”
Daffue could have been speaking for the entire field. While the first round of the 122nd US Open opens Thursday, the theater features a first-ever face-off between PGA Tour loyalists and rebel golfers who have been defected to the Saudi-financed LIV Golf Invitational series, Friday that drama was receded at Country Club outside Boston.
It was replaced by something more typical for a US Open: a topsy-turvy day in vexing golf-course conditions that had a cavalcade of famed and anonymous players jockeying up and down the leaderboard.
An hour before the sun set, Joel Dahmen, who missed the cut in four of the nine major tournaments he has entered and is ranked 130th, was tied for the lead at the halfway mark with Collin Morikawa, who is 25 at the vanguard. of the youth movement overtaking professional golf.
Morikawa shot a four-under-par 66 on Friday to move to five under par for the tournament. Dahmen, a popular, convivial presence on the tour known for the bucket hat that rarely comes off his head on the golf course, matched Morikawa with a steady round of 68 after shooting 67 in the first round. Dahmen, 34, has never finished higher than tied for 10th at a major championship and has never held the 36-hole lead at the PGA Tour event.
An eclectic fivesome of golfers was one stroke behind the co-leaders: Jon Rahm, who is ranked second worldwide; Rory McIlroy, who survived a scare on the third hole when he needed three swings to get his ball out of the thick greenside fescue but still shot 69; Hayden Buckley, a PGA Tour rookie; Beau Hossler, 27, who played his first US Open as a teenager; and Aaron Wise, who has a career PGA Tour victory.
Morikawa noted that there were more than 20 players within the lead of five strokes.
“No one is kind of run away with it,” he said. “But I guess that should be expected on a challenging golf course at the US Open. But right now, my game feels really good and the last few days have been a huge confidence booster heading into this weekend. Hopefully, we can kind of make some separation somehow. “
But the unpredictability was personified by Buckley, 26, who didn’t play competitive golf until he was a junior in high school and moved to the golf team when he attended the University of Missouri.
“It all kind of happened to be sure to be fast,” said Buckley, who had a victory over the minor league Korn Ferry Tour before earning his PGA Tour card late last year. “But I felt pretty relaxed and confident today.”
Buckley faltered in the middle of his second round when he had three bogeys in five holes. But Buckley rallied to shoot four under his final seven holes.
There was some normalcy to the second round. Scottie Scheffler, who sits atop the men’s world rankings, shot a three-under-par 67 to vault in contention. Scheffler, who won this year’s Masters Tournament and three other 2022 PGA Tour events, jumped-started his round by pitching in for an eagle on the 14th hole. He didn’t do it from the hospitality tent balcony where Daffue found his golf ball, but his tee shot bounded into the thick rough 40 yards right of the hole.
Then, in a scene that fit the uncommon nature of the day, Scheffler had to wait about a minute while a turkey sauntered across the 14th green. Smiling, Scheffler, who shot even par 70 on Thursday, reset his focus and knocked the ball into the hole. With a birdie on the 16th hole and two closing pars, Scheffler finished at three-under par for the tournament.
Collin Morikawa, the seventh-ranked player worldwide, began his round at one-under par but quickly stormed up the leaderboard with birdies on the 12th, 14th and 17th holes. (He started his round on the 10th hole.) Morikawa, winner of the 2020 PGA Championship, took the second-round lead with a third birdie on the first hole before registering his first bogey on the fourth hole. But he closed with a flourish, a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole to finish with four-under-par 66.
Morikawa has four top-10 finishes this year, including fifth at the Masters.
Jon Rahm, the US Open defending champion, started his round at one under par like Morikawa and teed off at the 10th hole. He eagled the short par-5 14th and deftly putted as the sun emerged on Friday afternoon and subtly dried out the fast, undulating greens. Rahm had three birdies and two bogeys.
Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who won the 2013 US Amateur at the Country Club when he was 18, was among the first-round leaders when he was shot 68 on Thursday. He continued his consistent, measured play with a 70 on Friday.
Two familiar names also climbed onto the front page of the leaderboard Friday: Sam Burns, 25, who has won twice since March and finished second in another event, shot a 67 to move two-under for the championship, and Brooks Koepka. The last man to win back-to-back US Opens, shot 67 after an unsteady 73 in the first round. Koepka was recently married, and he conceded the wedding limited the amount of practice time he could devote to his golf game. But he said he regained his confidence with more work out of the competition.
Phil Mickelson improved on his erratic 78 from Thursday’s first round to a three-over-par 73 in the second round, but continued to put him in the worst part of his game and he didn’t make the cut.
Mickelson, usually garrulous, didn’t talk after his round on Thursday and kept things brief on Friday. Of his comeback five months away from competition, Mickelson said: “I missed competing, but I also enjoyed some time away.”
Other prominent players to miss are the cuts including Kevin Na and Louis Oosthuizen, who joined Mickelson on the LIV Golf Tour, and Billy Horschel, who won the Memorial Tournament earlier this month. Also not eligible for the final weekend rounds will be Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.
Daffue, who finished at one under par for the tournament, was more content than ever to play golf.
“I’ve had goose bumps thinking about it,” he said. “I had an up-and-down day today, but to me, it was nothing but good. I’m still going to play tomorrow in the US Open. “