‘One reason I hate golf’: Tour winner gets candid about recent struggles

mackenzie hughes swings

After the FedEx St. Jude Championship, Mackenzie Hughes spoke candidly about his recent on-course struggles.

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Golf is an exercise in humility — and one that’s endlessly addicting. Hitting a good shot gives you the greatest high in the world, while hitting a bad one will send your spirits to their depths. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions that few sports can rival.

Five-time major winner Brooks Koepka might’ve summed it up best when appearing on season one of Netflix’s Full Swing: “Golf’s so crazy because when you have it, you feel like you’re never gonna lose it. And when you don’t have it, you feel like you’re never gonna get it.”

Count Lucas Glover in the camp of those who has it at the moment. He’s won tournaments in back-to-back weeks, vaulting himself from relative obscurity to the brink of a Ryder Cup berth. A few months ago, he was in the midst of another ho-hum season. Then, the putter got hot, his scores plummeted and he’s on the best hot streak of his career.

“If you would have told me this three months ago, I’d tell you you’re crazy,” Glover said after winning the FedEx St. Jude Championship. “But at the same time, if you asked me legitimately did I think I was capable, I’d say yes.”

Even in the slumps, you’ve got to have self belief. If you don’t, the struggles may never end.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Glover, you’ve got Mackenzie Hughes. The 32-year-old Canadian has seen his play crater in 2023. After earning his second career victory last fall, he’s missed 10 cuts in 20 starts during the calendar year. Since May, his best finish is a T30.

“This year has been pretty tough for me,” Hughes said. “I feel like when you’re going through a tough stretch like that, it becomes harder and harder to continue to grind and continue to grind when you’re not seeing a ton of results.”

Hughes is hardly alone in this feeling. Two-time major champ Justin Thomas is going through the same sort of low point. Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth have been through similar slumps, too. Even for the best players in the world, sometimes the game just abandons you.

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The wound after the first FedEx Cup playoff event is fresh for Hughes. His T58 finish — featuring rounds of 68, 67, 75 and 69 — ended his season as he dropped to 51st in the FedEx Cup standings, leaving him just outside the threshold to move on to the BMW Championship.

“I feel like I’m doing all the right things,” Hughes said. “I feel like I’m trying really hard, and I just haven’t got the results for that. I told my caddie today, that’s probably one reason I hate golf is that you can try really, really hard, and it guarantees absolutely nothing.”

Unfortunately, Hughes is spot on in that assessment. Golf careers are rarely linear. Just because you’ve had success before doesn’t guarantee bigger successes are to come. The game can abandon you at any moment, and it’s impossible to predict when it’ll happen.

The good news for Hughes is that the inverse is true, too. Just because your game has been trash for months — or even years — doesn’t mean it’s fated to continue on that path. Each time you tee it up, there’s a chance that this could be the day your game returns and you’ll start the latest hot streak.

As my GOLF.com coworker Dylan Dethier once poignantly noted, “Golf has a way of pumping you up and breaking you down, often one right after the other. [It’s] no wonder tour pros develop a relationship with the game that others have with blackjack or opiates.”

This is a truth golfers — especially pros — have to reconcile with on a daily basis. When they’re playing well, each step they take has the possibility to be the one that takes them off the cliff. But when they’re playing poorly, every shot has the chance to be the one that turns everything around. The only thing they can do is continue taking that leap of faith and hope for the best.

“I’ll reassess,” Hughes said after his frustrating season came to a close. “And I’ll try and get better for next year.”

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.

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