Mackenzie Hughes had plenty of motivation coming into the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Last week, he sat at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the Presidents Cup was going on at Quail Hollow Club across town. Hughes, the 31-year-old Canadian, didn’t make the International team, so he was forced to watch from home. He wanted to make sure he did whatever he could to make the team when the competition returns to Montreal in 2024.
He’s off to a great start.
Hughes beat Sepp Straka on the second playoff hole Sunday at The Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi, to win the 2022 Sanderson Farms Championship. It’s the second career win for Hughes, who last won in 2016 at the RSM Classic. Both of Hughes’ Tour wins have come in playoffs.
“I’m over the moon,” Hughes said. “I had some moments today where I was tested and was able to pull through. 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. Yeah, did everything I possibly could, just grinded my butt off, and luckily it was good enough.”
Hughes jarred an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win, giving a huge fist pump as the ball dropped in the cup.
“Winning gives you a lot of confidence,” Hughes said. “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.”
The duo went to a playoff after finishing at 17 under. Straka shot 5-under 67 in the final round. Straka’s round included birdies on four of his final five holes on the front nine. Hughes recorded a 3-under 69. He was even after eight holes and recorded three birdies and no bogeys in his final 10 holes.
On the first playoff hole, Straka found the green while Hughes’ ball came up in a bunker short of the green. He was able to get up and down from the sand, and Straka’s birdie missed just to the right of the cup.
On the second playoff hole, both players found the fairway, but Hughes stuck his approach shot tight. Straka’s approach leaked a bit long and left of the front left hole location, settling on the fringe. His putt again barely missed the cup, leaving the door open for Hughes to clinch the victory.
“Obviously wanted to get the win, disappointed with that,” Straka said. “But I played really well today. I shot 67 on a Sunday, came from behind and got myself in a playoff. Mac played great, birdieing 18. 18 is not an easy hole. Yeah, happy for him, and looking forward to some more.”
Hughes hit a clutch par putt on the 16th hole to remain at 17 under as the final round winded down. Moments later, Straka had a birdie putt on the 18th come up short. Hughes missed a birdie putt on the 17th hole and got up and down for par on 18 to force the playoff.
It’s the second time in the past three months (and his past four starts) Straka has lost in a playoff, including to Will Zalatoris on the third playoff hole at the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship, the first 2022 FedEx Cup Playoff event.
“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.”
Rookie Dean Burmester also shot 5-under 67 on Sunday, finishing fourth. Defending champion Sam Burns, the highest-ranked player in the field, finished tied for 30th at 8 under.
Yet the Sanderson Farms Championship belongs to Hughes, and it could be the start of a run to the 2024 Presidents Cup.
“Honestly, probably a little bit of a relief. It’s been a while,” Hughes said. “I’ve had some close calls. Finishing second, while it’s still great, it kind of stings when you’re that close. I just wasn’t going to accept that today.
“Somehow was able to pull through, and it definitely feels a little sweeter than the first one.”