It wasn’t as sensational as his first round, but Mackenzie Hughes is more than satisfied with his score of 68 on Friday at the Travelers Championship.
Hughes made four birdies, along with a couple of bogeys, and finds himself at 12 under, one shot off the lead heading to the weekend.
“It felt a lot different than 60,” Hughes stated. “Overall, I was fairly pleased.”
The TPC River Highlands course was a trickier test in Round 2, with swirling breezes playing havoc with approach shots. Hughes managed to reach 13 of them in regulation but had a few unforced errors that left him scrambling.
On the ninth hole, he missed the green from 121 yards out and a wedge in his hands. He did the same thing on 12 from 120 yards and on 14 when he was 131 yards away.
“When the wind was swirling on the back nine. I missed a couple greens with wedges,” Hughes lamented, “and you can't be doing that and trying to win a tournament.”
The two-round total leaves the Dundas, Ont., native just a shot back of the lead held by Phil Mickelson and tied with unheralded Will Gordon, who shot a score of 62 after getting into the event on a sponsor’s exemption.
It’s been three years since Hughes won his lone tour event, the RSM Classic. That victory came in a five-way playoff involving Hughes, Camilo Villegas, Henrik Norlander, Blayne Barber and Billy Horschel.
Although he’s been through a number of struggles since that win, the two-time Canadian amateur champ is hoping he can draw on some of those memories to get himself into position for another chance at victory.
“I kept telling myself that week that there's no reason why I couldn't do it,” reflected Hughes, “and I was going against guys that were veterans of the tour, and it'll be the same this weekend with Phil [Mickelson] and some other guys up there.”
Mickelson, who turned 50 earlier this month, posted a score of 63 to go with his opening-round 64. It marked the first time in his 624 career starts that he’s opened a tournament with two rounds of 64 or better.
Depending on what happens with the two players on Saturday, Mickelson may not want to be paired with a Canadian in the final round. Earlier this year, Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., battled the lefthander at the AT+T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and came out on top.
For Hughes, the keys will be cleaning up the wedge play and keeping his focus on the next shot.