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Hughes taking the positives from Valspar finish


Mackenzie Hughes would have loved the win, but he was more than happy to take the positives from his best finish of the year at the Valspar Championship.

Hughes ended up tied for third after slipping down the back nine as his playing partner Peter Malnati earned the victory, the second of his PGA Tour career.

“It was a blast,” said Hughes, who ended up at nine-under par. “I love being in the battle, in the fight. Peter just played incredible. He deserved to win. He played better than I did. He was in control of his golf ball.”

Hughes teed off two shots out of the lead but by the eighth hole, had taken over top spot at 10 under. Bogeys on 12, when his approach went long and ended up in a greenside bunker, and 13, when he dunked his tee shot in the par-3 hole, pushed him down the leaderboard and he could never catch up. He drained an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th to close out his day.

“I teed off with the intent that I could hoist the trophy and I was playing well enough to do that,” said Hughes. “Unfortunately, it didn't happen for me. But you need to keep putting yourself there and have continuous chances for it to happen. There are guys that put themselves there a lot, consistently, and it's hard to win.”

The finish was the best performance of the season for Hughes who has played good but not necessarily great in 2024. He began working with a new coach last month, Mark Wood, and said he’s pleased with the progress, especially with his long game.

At the Players Championship, he drove the ball well, but his normally trusty putter went cold. This week, things flipped. He finished second in Strokes Gained: Putting but 70th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee.

The putter has been the best club in Hughes’ bag the last four years and it was again on Sunday. He rolled in putts of 36 and 45 feet during the middle of his round, saying that he went away from being too mechanical and going back to more a more feel-oriented approach.

“I felt really good out there,” stated the Dundas, Ont., product. “So that was nice to see some putts go in and kind of get some confidence back.”

Hughes is on a late push to try and earn a spot in the field for the Masters. He is playing next week at the Houston Open and will need a win or a very high finish to get a ticket to Augusta. The top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking after next week’s tournament will be invited to the year’s first major.

Good finishes will also help his chances of making the Olympic Team, where the top two Canadians will play in Paris, and the Presidents Cup International Team, with Captain Mike Weir leading the squad.

“He knows we're all dying to be on that team,” Hughes said. “But all we can do is just keep playing. It's a long way away. So I know he's watching and I would have loved to have shown him a bit more today and kind of got across the line. But I know that a player like that would do some damage in match play.”

Adam Hadwin ended up tied for fifth at eight-under, Roger Sloan and Adam Svensson tied for 49th and it was a tied for 64th for Nick Taylor.