It didn’t always look pretty for Mackenzie Hughes on Sunday at the Sanderson Farms Championship, but when the pressure was highest, he delivered.
Coming down the stretch at the Country Club of Jackson, he blew his drive well right on the par-5 14th before getting up and down from nearly 140 yards by making a 16-foot par save. Then he made tricky up and downs on both 17 and 18.
“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.”
And he did it again in a playoff, saving par on the first hole against Sepp Straka from the bunker before delivering the knockout punch the next time around: a striped iron to 8 feet and the make to seal the win.
“[I] did everything I possibly could, just grinded my butt off, and luckily it was good enough,” Hughes said after the win.
Hughes and Straka were tied after 72 holes at 17 under. They both trailed 54-hole leader Mark Hubbard by one and three strokes, respectively, coming into the final round, but Hubbard faded with a 74 in the final round.
Straka had two great chances to win the tournament outright on the 18th hole, hitting consecutive approaches in similar spots, first in regulation, then again in the playoff. Both birdie tries from about 20 feet were not to be.
This is Hughes’ second win. His first also came in a playoff, at the 2017 RSM Classic. After his third round, he mentioned how much he’s learned since that first win nearly six years ago.
“I just think that I’ve had a few chances since then, obviously, to win, and on Sunday things can move faster, and it can be harder to stay in your own rhythm, in your own game,” he said Saturday. “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 final-round 69 was clean, just one bogey against four birdies to nab a spot in the playoff.
“Winning gives you a lot of confidence,” Highs said after the playoff. “It validates a lot of work I’ve been putting in. It’s 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.”
Straka also had one win coming into the win, earlier this year at the Honda Classic. He had a mixed bag in the 2021-’22 season, picking up the win in February, then two other top-10s before missing eight of his next 11 cuts.
He immediately rebounded with hot play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, losing in another playoff, to Will Zalatoris in Memphis, and earning a tie 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.”