Mackenzie Hughes has gotten off to about as good of a start as he could have hoped for in 2022-23. The Canadian won in his second event of the season at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Hughes fired a 63 in round two that week in Mississippi and beat Sepp Straka in a playoff.
Hughes has finished top-25 in all four events this season, including T-16th last week at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
Hughes is the king of the fall season. His other PGA Tour win came as a rookie at the 2016 RSM Classic.
He won his tournament debut by posting 61-67-68-69 to get into a marathon five-man playoff that stretched into Monday.
An 18-foot par putt from off the green won it for Hughes in dramatic fashion.
Here’s his assessment from 2017 on the challenge the field is facing this week at Sea Island.
"“The Seaside course kind of has some bigger fairways when there’s not any wind blowing, but when the wind’s blowing, you’ve got those crosswinds going, the fairways seem kind of small,” Hughes was transcribed in 2017 by Tee Scripts. “The golf courses are awesome. They’re both kind of different styles. I think the Seaside’s more, I don’t want to say linksy but it has that linksy feel to it, and the Plantation’s a bit more tree-lined.”"
The magic didn’t last for Hughes on his next four trips to St. Simons Island. He missed three cuts and finished T-65th the other time. I think those results had more to do with his form dipping overall, and not all with the course/tournament.
Hughes’ game was on the uptick in 2021. So was he at the RSM Classic, where he took solo second place.
Hughes shot 63 at the Plantation course on Thursday and ended with 68-70-62. His 19-under total would have gotten him into a playoff each of the previous three years and won outright in 2016.
A 22-footer for birdie on Sunday was a nice high note to end on.
Unfortunately for Hughes, Talor Gooch was too good that week in tying the tournament record of 22-under. Fortunately for Hughes, Gooch won’t be playing here again as a LIV defector.
Based on rounds at Seaside, Hughes was second in the field in strokes gained tee to green (9.417) and third in SG approach (6.247).
His ball striking coming together like that is the key to him firing on all cylinders. Hughes has had a reliable short game week in and week out.
The 31-year-old ranked sixth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained per round around the green (.454) in 2019-20, dipped to 74th (.108) in 2020-21, before ticking back up to 29th (.288) last season, and 13th (.674) early on in 2022-23.