BROOKLINE, Mass. – Country Club fans welcomed the golfers who decided to take the cash and head to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour.
The US Open course itself, not so much.
Only four of the players who signed with the breakaway tour made the cut on Friday, led by Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed to 1 over. Nearly a dozen others who joined the 54-hole circuit missed the cut at 3 overs and left after 36 holes.
Johnson followed a 68 in the first round with a 73 on Friday. He said he hasn’t heard any jokes from fans about his decision to play in LIV Golf, which has been heavily criticized for being supported by the Saudi government.
“Obviously it’s a good sports city, and a lot of people come to support the event. The fans have been great,” says Johnson. “I haven’t really noticed a difference.”
Bryson DeChambeau and Richard Bland also made it to the weekend, finishing at 2 after 36 holes. Sergio Garcia and James Piot were among those at plus-4 who narrowly missed.
Other defectors who weren’t so lucky include six-time major champion – and six-time US Open runner-up – Phil Mickelson, who became the face of the new tour. He shot a 73 on Friday to finish 11 over par.
Louis Oosthuizen shot a 69 in the second round, but he followed a 77 from Thursday. Jed Morgan brought up the rear at 16 years older.
Johnson’s name was the biggest surprise on the roster for the first LIV event outside of London, mainly because he was golf’s greatest player of the past decade and said in February that he would stay put. The Daily Telegraphy reported that he had been given $150 million to sign.
Johnson was among those who resigned from their PGA Tour membership, and he soon lost his sponsorship with the Royal Bank of Canada. He has gone 16 months without winning, dating to the Saudi International in early 2021, and his world ranking has fallen to No.16.
“It was a tough decision, but I’m very confident in the decision I made,” says Johnson. “I’m really happy and looking forward to this weekend and the rest of the events this year.”
Harris English shot a 69 on Friday, finishing all 36 holes at 2 over par, keeping his major cut streak alive.
English, who finished third at the US Open in Torrey Pines last year and fourth at Winged Foot the year before, hasn’t missed a major tournament cut since the 2014 PGA Championship. longest active streak in golf. He is still trying for his first victory in a major tournament.
Winner twice last year, the English climbed into the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time in his career. But after playing at the Sony Open in January, he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip and missed four months, including the Masters and the PGA Championship.
MJ Daffue’s problems at the US Open on Friday began on a cheap piece of carpet in a hospitality suite to the left of the 14th fairway.
If only that had been the worst.
There was nothing in Daffue’s shot from the deck of the hospitality suite that could have predicted his 6-under freefall and a three-shot lead outside the top 10 at the end of his second turn. He hit that shot over the railing and then sailed it about 250 yards to the left of the green, about level with the pin.
But he missed the first shot and bogeyed. He followed with another bogey on No. 15, then clipped a clean ball from a greenside bunker on No. 18 to finish with a double bogey there.
The South African shot 2 of 72 and closed out the day at 1 under after spending most of the morning alone in the lead.
“A Crazy Battle” said Daffue. “Obviously I’m disappointed. But you expect at some point during US Open week, the golf course is going to come and bite us.
It’s not the worst Daffue has been through.
A story on pgatour.com details the depression and doubt that have been part of Daffue’s life for the past decade. It all started when her future mother-in-law died in a freak accident. This continued when the financial pressure of earning a living playing golf became almost too much.
More recently, he suffered from an episode of COVID-19. But golf and life have improved lately. A string of strong finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour helped him secure his PGA Tour card for 2022-23. He wrapped that up in time to play in a US Open qualifier that wasn’t originally on his schedule.
He entered the week ranked 296th. Some of the best advice he’s received over the years has come from someone in his country who knows a bit about the US Open. Two-time champion Retief Goosen mentored Daffue.
“He gave me simple advice” said Daffue. “It’s not about overdoing it. Hit in the middle of the greens. Stay within yourself and focus on the six feet directly around you.
Barring a withdrawal on Thursday, Nick Hardy can be listed as the last player to enter the US Open. The USGA was keeping a spot in case Cameron Champ or JJ Spaun won the Canadian Open, which would have been their second victory on the PGA Tour in the past 12 months, and thus exempted them.
Both missed the cut and Hardy was in. And now he will be among the last players to start the weekend at the Country Club after rounds of 69-68 for a 3-under 137.
It’s his fourth US Open, and he’s already different from the others due to how few holes Hardy has played all week. It wasn’t entirely by design. He injured his wrist tendon after hitting a hard shot in a big hard in New Orleans. It kept him out for five weeks, and he said he went 30 days without swinging a club.
While failing on a promise to find a hobby, free time at least taught him to slow down.
“I learned that I didn’t need to be out there six, seven, eight hours a day to grind,” he said. “I don’t need to hit a club every day to continue and keep my feeling.”
There were times at previous US Opens when he played 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 work.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and National Writer Eddie Pells contributed to this report.