MacKenzie Hughes wins Sanderson Farms with birdie on second hole of playoffs

JACKSON, Mississippi — Whether it was sheer confidence or extraordinary toughness, MacKenzie Hughes never doubted he would win the Sanderson Farms Championship. He just never imagined how Sunday night would unfold.

Hughes had to make six key putts — four of them par — on the final seven holes to beat Sepp Straka on the second playoff hole to win his second PGA Tour victory.

“The second feels a lot harder than the first, that’s for sure,” Hughes said.

The 31-year-old Canadian, known for his putter, finally birdied his third 18th hole at Jackson Country Club with an 8-foot putt for victory.

But it’s also about par — a 15-foot putt on the par-5 14th, a 7-footer on the 16th after he couldn’t get to the green from the fairway bunker, and a 18-foot putt on the 18th. 100 feet behind the regular season green, from the bunker on the first hole of the playoffs.

“I’ve been telling myself all week, I’m going to do it. That’s the only thing I see in my head,” Hughes said. “Those pars made saves the whole time, and I was just trying to get the ball in the hole.”

The first par save on the 18th put him at 3-under for a 3-under 69, forcing him in the playoffs against Straka, who played two groups ahead of Hughes with a 3-under 69. 67 for a 17-under 271.

On the second playoff hole, Straka missed 18 feet from the edge before Hughes made the winning putt. It was Straka’s second playoff loss in the past four games. The other is against Wilzara Torres at the start of the PGA Tour playoffs.

“I played really well on a tough Sunday,” said Straka, who won his first PGA Tour title earlier this year at the Honda Classic. “Giving yourself a chance to win here is key. The more you can do that, the more comfortable you’ll be.”

For Hughes, it’s been six years since his only victory at Sea Island — also in the playoffs.

“I fought so hard to stay in there,” Hughes said. “To get second, and while it’s still great, it kind of stings when you get that close. I just didn’t want to take it today.”

The victory came a week after the Presidents Cup, and Hughes was disappointed not to be selected for the Quail Hollow international team in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives. He wanted to use that as a driving force, and he did.

Garrick Higo of South Africa had a 68 to finish third.

Straka birdied the par-5 14th and par-4 15th to take the lead. He had to take par for the rest of the day.

Hughes still had those scoring holes to play, and he almost squandered the opportunity. On the 14th hole, he was in the wrong position on the tee, his wedge went over a tree and back into the fairway, went short in a bunker and he had to lay up again and make a 15-foot par. Putt escape.

On the final hole, he got off the tee well and hit the stands under a tree and on the green. After the free clearance, he used the putter 100 feet from the green, putting it to 3 feet with perfect speed.

On the first hole of the playoffs on No. 18, Hughes came up short in a bunker about 15 feet from the edge of the bunker to the flag. He rushed out 5 feet and made a par.

That put them back at No. 18 for the third time, and Hughes shut him out.

Mark Hubbard went into the final round with a one-shot lead, making just two birdies in his 74 rounds to tie for fifth.

The final round had five players with at least a lead at some point. Among them was Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who made a triple-bogey on the par-5 14th without a free throw and his round was called off.

Higo was never part of the lead, though he hung around all day and missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that ultimately cost him the playoffs.

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