Canada's Hughes wants to repeat at Sanderson Farms Championship
A birdie on the second playoff hole of last year's Sanderson Farms Championship put Mackenzie Hughes in a solid position for the rest of the PGA Tour season.
As much as he'd like to repeat as champion, things have changed in the past 12 months.
Hughes, from Dundas, Ont., still wants to win it for a second consecutive year, but now it's more about keeping his game in good shape than it is climbing the FedEx Cup standings. The shifting goals are largely because the PGA Tour's points list resets on New Year's Day instead of straddling two calendar years as it did last season.
"When I won last year I was the top of the FedEx Cup and I was set up for a great year, right from the get go," said Hughes, No. 51 on the FedEx Cup standings, on a video call from Country Club of Jackson in Mississippi. "If I'm to win this week it doesn't necessarily give me a head start on next year's FedEx Cup.
"January 1st, everyone's starting from scratch, starting fresh."
Instead, Hughes is trying to earn entry into more tournaments this fall and make sure he's finely tuned for the 2023 golf season, which will have a different format following the PGA Tour's merger with the Europe-based DP World Tour and Saudi-owned LIV Golf circuit.
He said that the schedule and format changes have impacted the entire field at the Sanderson Farms Championship, including fellow Canadians Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., and Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont.
"No one's looking at it as if you're getting ahead of the guys that aren't playing," said Hughes. "Everyone out here is playing for something a little bit different, whether it's a guy that's 150th in the FedEx Cup and is playing for his card, or a guy like me who's trying to just maintain where he's at, and hopefully win and play my way into some of those other tournaments."
Hughes has been clear about his goals for the 2024 season for months now.
He wants to play for the International team in the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club. It's not just an opportunity to represent Canada on one of the biggest stages in men's golf, but a chance to play for golfing legend Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., who is the first Canadian to captain a team at the international event.
"Obviously, my goals are to play for Mike at Royal Montreal and be on that Presidents Cup team and really just kind of get back to playing some good consistent golf," said Hughes. "I feel like I have a great understanding of what I need to do now.
"I think that despite what I've gone through the last like six months or so I feel like I've actually never felt better about what what's to come. I'm really bullish on my season next year and beyond."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.