FIRST ROUND CANADIAN OPEN
Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas
was the leading Canadian contender during the first round of play at Oakville’s storied Glen Abbey Golf Club Thursday. The 26-year-old shot 5-under during the national championship’s opening day, which was curtailed by rain . He heads into Friday’s second round two shots off the lead in a 16-way tie for 17th place.
Consider it a sign of how far Mackenzie Hughes has come since his last appearance at the Canadian Open that, after shooting 5-under in the first round, his Twitter feed didn’t blow up.
“It’s weird,” he laughed. “I feel like I’m a pretty experienced pro now, and it’s not like everyone’s like ‘Oh my God, this is crazy.’ It’s like ‘Mackenzie’s playing well, this is great,’ and hopefully I’ll keep it going.”
The 26-year-old from Dundas fired a 67 at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville on Thursday — the top score among the field’s 17 Canadians on an opening day cut short by rain and darkness. He goes into Friday’s second round in a 16-way tie for 17th place, two shots off the lead.
“I put myself in a pretty good spot,” he said.
Hughes played in the Canadian Open as an amateur in 2012 and as a professional in ’13. He missed the cut both times.
In the years since, he’s graduated college, won an event on the Web.com Tour, gotten married and earned his PGA Tour card. And he showed he could beat some of the best in the world with a win at the RSM Classic.
In short, he’s changed. And so has his approach to the Canadian Open. “It’s not like a one-off week,” he said. “Before, when I played in the Canadian Open, it was like the biggest tournament of my life every time. Now, it’s a huge deal. But I’ve played in majors, so I’m just a bit more comfortable being out on the course and it makes a huge difference.”
Hughes teed off at 8 a.m. with veteran Ernie Els and Tom Hoge, who was a replacement in the grouping. American Scott Piercy, the 2012 Canadian Open champion, withdrew early Thursday — a PGA official said it isn’t clear why.
The trio started on the back nine where Hughes, wet with rain, birdied the par-4 10th hole and bogeyed the par-4 17th. The sun was peeking through the clouds by the time he reached the 1st hole — another par-4.
He birdied it, too, after a remarkable recovery from behind a tree, then finished up with birdies on the par-5 2nd, par-3 4th and par-4 5th.
In the aftermath, he described his best round at the Canadian Open as meeting expectations and “mostly stress free.”
“I made one little hiccup on the 17th hole — missed a short putt — but other than that, it was pretty rock solid. Lots of fairways and gave myself some really good looks,” he added.
For Hughes, who is currently 26th in the FedEx Cup standings, the key now is to not do too much — his words — “just go out there and hit one shot at a time.” Yet, he’s also thinking big picture. A win, or something like it, would go a long way toward locking up a spot in the Tour Championship — something he said would be a “real thrill” for his first year on tour. It might even get him back in the mix for a spot in the President’s Cup.
“I would probably need a win at this point,” said Hughes, who was 28th in the international standings to start the weekend. “I believe I’m playing well enough to do that, it’s just winning is really difficult. If it happened, it would be amazing. But I think I’m going to have a few more chances in the future to be on the President’s Cup team and I’ll just keep plugging away and see if it happens.”
MacKenzie Hughes of Dundas is happy after his first round at Glen Abbey Thursday: “I put myself in a pretty good spot.”
Fresh off his second place finish at the British Open, Matt Kuchar carded a 1-under 71 Thursday.
Canadian Adam Hadwin eyes his putt on the first hole.
Dustin Johnson acknowledges crowd after a birdie on the seventh hole.