It’s been a whirlwind year for 2016 RSM Classic champion Mackenzie Hughes. Since winning, Hughes has gotten married, become a father, just missed out on making the Tour Championship and shortened his first name, now going by Mac.
The reason for the name change? Just making Hughes’ life a little simpler.
“I actually just changed that last week because if I’m talking to somebody, I’ll say ‘Hey, call me Mac,’” Hughes said. “That’s just kind of the name I go by. So if that’s what I’m going to go by, I’ll just write it down on paper so everyone just calls me that and make my life a little easier.”
When Hughes arrived in the Golden Isles last year, he was just a PGA Tour rookie from Canada making his ninth start on Tour. Hughes carded a 9-under 61 in the first round and held the lead or a piece of the lead for all four rounds. However, he would have to survive a playoff to earn his first win.
The five-golfer playoff started late Sunday but would not end until Monday as darkness crept in on Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course. One golfer fell by the wayside on Sunday, but that meant four golfers — Hughes, Camilo Villegas, Blayne Barber and Henrik Norlander — were still alive heading to the third playoff hole Monday.
On the par-3 17th, none of the golfers were able to find the green. Villegas, Barber and Norlander were able to get on the green to set up 8 to 10 feet par putts.
Hughes, whose drive bounced through the green and next to a drainage hole, wasn’t as fortunate. His chip came up short of the green.
From the fringe, however, Hughes was able to sink his par putt and put pressure on the remaining golfers. In succession, each of the remaining golfers missed their par putts to give Hughes his first Tour victory.
“It was a life-changing day,” Hughes said. “I still look back on it and think like ‘Wow. How did I manage to pull that off, and how did I manage to go wire-to-wire?’ It was my ninth ever start on the PGA Tour, fifth as a member and (the whole week) I was calm, I had the lead and after the first day, I just kept to my same routine.”
The routine included a glass of wine, a home-cooked meal and watching the TV show “Friends.”
“Something about that week, everything was just how it needed to be,” Hughes said. “My mind was in the right place.”
After the RSM, Hughes racked up one more top 10 finish on the season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am. He finished the 2016-17 season with nine top 25 finishes, made 22 cuts and finished 36th in the final FedEx Cup rankings.
Hughes just missed out on the Tour Championship, which features the top 30 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings. Missing out on the Tour Championship stung, Hughes said, but he also knows that a lot of rookies aren’t in contention to make it.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would have a chance in Chicago, third leg of the playoffs, to make East Lake (where the Tour Championship is played), then I would have been like ‘Yes, please where do I sign?’” Hughes said. “I try to look at it that way, glass half-full.”
Hughes’ big takeaway from his first year on Tour has been how small the gap is between the best players in the world. He said watching guys like Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and others on TV makes them seem superhuman.
“But I’ve been with them and they hit poor shots too,” Hughes said. “What I’ve learned is that these guys still make mistakes and it’s not about being perfect. I knew that, but it’s also nice to see it and be a part of it.
“I think seeing those sorts of things and realizing that my game is not that far away from some of these guys, and with some polish and more experience, hopefully I’ll be one of those top guys at some point.”