BOB WEST — M.J. Daffue, Chris Stroud, Andrew Landry working to pick up pace

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Yogi Berra, if the beloved New York Yankees catcher were still around, would no doubt agree that it’s getting late early for the Port Neches-Groves PGA Tour duo of Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry. And for Lamar University-ex M.J. Daffue.

With their playing cards at stake, in the ever changing and increasingly sink-or-swim world of professional golf, all three are looking to improve. Under the latest baseline of needing to finish top 70 in Fed Ex points to have full playing privileges next year, none are close.

Stroud, coming off a missed cut at least week’s Honda Classic, is No. 129; Daffue, following a season best tie for 21st in the Honda, is up to 143; and Landry, who also missed last week’s cut, is 199. Each will try to move up in this week’s “satellite” tourney in Puerto Rico.

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It is the kind of opportunity that needs to be maximized. Most of the world’s top players will be in Orlando playing in Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill tourney. That’s one of the new elevated events carrying a $20 million purse, with a first-place prize of $3.8 million.

Meanwhile, the next level of PGA Tour players gathers in Puerto Rico trying to improve their status. There won’t be nearly as much money or as many Fed Ex points up for grabs, but a win or a high finish could be a momentum builder for a Stroud, Landry or Daffue.

Stroud, 41, and a 14-year tour veteran who was once No. 74 in the Official World Golf Ranking, has seen his career sidetracked by injuries. Down to one tournament on a major medical exemption, he’s been accorded extra playing opportunities based on a 26th place finish in last year’s Korn Ferry finals.

Trouble is, he’s putted poorly and missed cuts at Pebble Beach and the Honda. Now No. 511 in the OWGR, he needs to make a dramatic move upward soon or face the decision of trying to regain his playing card through the Korn Ferry. A T5 in November’s RSM indicates he’s still got high-level game.

Landry, who turns 36 in August, has worked through a shoulder injury issue that derailed him last year. He’s healthy but hasn’t been able to get his game on track, making it to the weekend in only one of five 2023 events.

Dating back to the September start of the 2022-23 season, his best finish in 10 starts is T55 in the Fortinet Classic. He’s tumbled to 593 in the Official World Golf Rankings after ascending to 64th following his victory in the 2020 American Express.

Then there’s Daffue, a 33-year-old PGA Tour rookie. The one-time Lamar star, after earning his card with stellar play on the Korn Ferry last year, has made 7 of 12 cuts. But until last week’s T21 in the Honda he’d been inside the top 48 only once – a T29. You don’t pile up Fed Ex points that way.

Daffue, however, has shown flashes of potential when he avoids double bogeys. He closed 67-68-66 in the Honda. Counting other past PGA starts when he Monday qualified, he’s made 16 of 26 cuts, tied for 31st in last year’s U.S. Open and has climbed to a 161 OWGR.

He might be worth watching in Puerto Rico.

Though it truly has gotten late early for the trio with local ties, they figure to get ample chances over the next few months. Because the PGA’s upper tier will be occupied with elevated tournaments, the Players and the majors, other doors figure to open.

Once attractive events like the Valero Texas Open, the Byron Nelson and the Colonial have been more or less kicked to the curb. So have several other good tournaments that will be settling for less than star-studded fields.

Getting into those tournaments doesn’t look to be a problem. The key will be taking advantage.

Golf news should be e-mailed to Bob West at