Hughes reflects on successful Canadian Open, 'slow climb' up rankings

Photo of Hughes reflects on successful Canadian Open, 'slow climb' up rankings
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OAKVILLE, Ontario - Mackenzie Hughes didn't finish the way he would've liked to at the RBC Canadian Open, going bunker to bunker on No. 18 and missing a 14-footer for birdie that would've put him in a tie for sixth. But seeing his 9-month-old son, Kenton, afterward helped him get over the result.

"He doesn't know that dad is ticked off and didn't make birdie," Hughes said with a smile.

Hughes notched his best finish of the year Sunday at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario, about 30 minutes from where he grew up. He shot a 4-under 68 and moved into a tie for eighth - his first top-10 finish of the season.

He acknowledged afterward that a better score could've put him in the Top 125 in the FedEx Cup, earning him starts in the FedEx Cup playoffs. But considering where he was earlier in the year - he missed his first eight cuts of the season - he'll take his performance.

"Overall a great week," Hughes said. "It's a bit disappointing to finish up that way. I'm not going to be the only guy to make par on that last hole, but you just get down to the end and you're hoping for more. It's great to come off the green and see my boy and my wife, and move on to next week."

For his efforts, he won the Rivermead Cup as low Canadian at the Canadian Open for the second year in a row.

(Photo courtesy: Adam Stanley)

"If you're not going to win the big trophy, the Rivermead Cup is a pretty good consolation prize," said Hughes, one of 21 Canadians in the field. "The depth of talent in Canadian golf ... every one of those Canadian players are just so talented."

He topped them all this week, and enjoyed a very Canadian golf experience.

Canadian flavor

For the second year in a row, the par-3 No. 7 was converted into a hockey rink, complete with boards - which spectators banged on to cheer on big names and celebrate solid approach shots - and marshals dressed as referees.

Hughes autographed Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys and gave out seven of them throughout the tourney. He even chipped in for birdie while wearing one during Friday's second round.

"It's a unique part of this event. The kids who got jerseys love it ... I saw those kids following me around. Hopefully, (I made) some new fans out there and helped them soak up the experience on that hole," he said. "It's a lot of fun and a very Canadian-type experience."

Back to the basics

Hughes is getting back to feeling like his old self: the golfer who captured a title in one of his first starts on Tour.

Over the last few weeks, he said he went "back to basics" in terms of his mental and physical approach. He tried to make some changes within his team, and they didn't work out the way he hoped, but he learned from those mistakes, and now feels more confident. It's showing on the course, too, as he's playing his best stretch of golf of the season.

"It's been a steady, slow climb, but it's getting there. My back is against the wall the next couple of weeks. I need to play phenomenal golf, but I don't need as much now than before this week, so I'm chipping away at it," he said. "You'd love to have made two or three more birdies (at Glen Abbey). That's how close it is. But I'll build on what I have, take it into next week, and try to contend again."

Even closer to home next year

The 2019 Canadian Open's host, Hamilton Golf and Country Club, is 13 minutes from Hughes' hometown of Dundas, Ontario. He played as an amateur when the event was last played there in 2012.

"Next year will be my third year on Tour, and going to a place that I'm very familiar with ... I'm really excited," he said. "There is obviously a lot of golf between here and then, but, yeah, it will be another dream come true for me."

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