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At the Sanderson Farms Championship, Mackenzie Hughes’ crucial play results in a playoff victory

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On Sunday at the Sanderson Farms Championship, Mackenzie Hughes’ performance wasn’t always attractive, but when the stakes were the greatest, he delivered.

He missed his drive far right on the par-5 14th hole as he was approaching the finish line at the Country Club of Jackson, but he recovered by making a 16-foot par save from about 140 yards away. Then, on both 17 and 18, he performed difficult ups and downs.

“I had some moments today where I was tested and was able to pull through,” Hughes said. “It’s kind of my MO a little bit is to scramble and save some pars. I had to do that a little bit today on the back nine.”

In a playoff, he repeated the feat, saving par on the first hole against Sepp Straka from the bunker before landing the decisive blow the following time: a striped iron to 8 feet and the putt to win.

Hughes commented after the victory, “[I] did everything I possibly could, just grinded my butt off, and luckily it was good enough.”

After 72 holes, Hughes and Straka were tied at 17 under par. Coming into the final round, they both behind 54-hole leader Mark Hubbard by one and three shots, respectively, but Hubbard sputtered with a final-round score of 74.

When Straka made successive approaches in comparable places on the 18th hole, first during regulation and then again during the playoff, he had two excellent opportunities to win the competition outright. Both birdie attempts from a distance of roughly 20 feet failed.

Hughes has already won twice. The 2017 RSM Classic playoff was where he received his first. He acknowledged how much he’s learned since his initial victory almost six years ago after his third round.

“I just think that I’ve had a few chances since then, obviously, to win,” he said on Saturday. “On Sunday, things can move faster, and it can be harder to stay in your own rhythm, in your own game.  But I think that’s the most important thing to do tomorrow for me is stay within myself, focus on my own game, and let the chips fall where they fall.”

His round of 69 in the final round was flawless, with only one bogey against four birdies to secure a playoff position.

After the playoff, Highs stated, “Winning gives you a lot of confidence. “It validates a lot of work I’ve been putting in. Just really hard to win. I know this gets said a lot, but I’ve been close a lot in the last five years, and to finally get one and get that monkey off my back for the second one is just the greatest feeling in the world.”

Ahead to the victory, Straka had already claimed one win in the Honda Classic earlier this year. In the 2021–2022 season, he had a mixed record, winning in February, finishing in two other top-10s, and then missing eight of his next 11 cuts.

He quickly bounced back with strong performance in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, losing to Will Zalatoris in a subsequent playoff in Memphis, and finishing tied for seventh in the FedEx Cup.

“Just more experience of getting myself in the hunt,” Straka said. “I think that’s huge, the kind of experience you can’t buy. It’s always the goal at the beginning of the week is on Sunday afternoon to have a chance, and I gave myself a chance. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but next time it will.”

Original article posted on Golf.com

Photo credit: Jonathan Bachman

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