RSM Classic 2016
Round 4 - Mackenzie Hughes claims first PGA Tour titleNovember 22, 2016
Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes rolled in an 18-foot par putt on the third playoff hole to win the RSM Classic in Georgia on Monday and bring the PGA Tour's final regular tournament of 2016 to a dramatic close.
Hughes, Colombian Camilo Villegas, Swede Henrik Norlander and American Blayne Barber were back at the Seaside Course in St Simonson on Monday after darkness had ended play following two extra holes on Sunday.
Hughes, putting from just off the green at the par-three 17th, fist-pumped as he watched his ball drop into the hole to put the pressure on Villegas, Norlander and Barber who all missed from inside 10 feet as the Canadian celebrated a wire-to-wire victory.
Five players finished the regulation 72 holes tied on 17 under par at the Sea Island Resort including Billy Horschel, the 2014 FedExCup champion, who was eliminated after missing a short par putt on the first extra hole.
Round 4 - Monday finish for four man playoffNovember 21, 2016
Billy Horschel thought he hit the winning putt, taking quick steps to the right to watch the ball track toward the cup only for it to burn the left edge.
No problem. He'd get another chance in the five-man playoff at the RSM Classic.
Except that he didn't.
In a shocker Sunday at Sea Island, Horschel's routine tap-in from 2 feet missed to the right on No. 18 and he was eliminated from the playoff. One hole later, with the other four players unable to make a putt in the dark on the 18th green, the final PGA Tour event was suspended until Monday morning.
Mackenzie Hughes, the 25-year-old Canadian trying to become the first rookie to go wire-to-wire in 20 years, had a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 on the second extra hole and it turned away to the left. It already was plenty dark, and there was no chance to play another hole.
Hughes, Blayne Barber, Camilo Villegas and Henrik Norlander were to return at 8 a.m. Monday to resume on the par-3 17th.
Horschel was headed home feeling empty.
''I missed it. That's pretty much what it came down to,'' Horschel said after walking off the 18th green. ''I took my time and just blocked it.''
But he wrote on Twitter a few minutes later, ''I didn't take my time over that short putt.''
Either way, he was headed home to Florida feeling empty. He hasn't won since the Tour Championship in 2014 to capture the FedEx Cup, and at No. 76 in the world, he is not yet eligible for any of the majors next year.
That includes the Masters. And a trip to Augusta National is a big perk for whoever wins on Monday. That's not all that's at stake.
Norlander and Villegas don't have full status on the PGA Tour this year - Norlander received a sponsor's exemption - and a victory would take care of that. Hughes began his rookie season just six weeks ago and has a honeymoon planned in the offseason. Barber is going for his first PGA Tour victory.
All of them had their chances, and none had any real regrets over the final hour.
Hughes narrowly missed birdie chances on the 15th and 16th holes, but holed a 5-foot par putt on the 18th in regulation for a 1-under 69 to join the playoff.
Norlander, who closed with a 65, stuffed a 9-iron into 3 feet on the 18th in regulation and was the first to reach 17-under 265. Barber ran off back-to-back birdies on the back nine, and he had a 12-foot birdie attempt at the 18th that he missed on the low side. He shot a 66.
Villegas played the best coming down the stretch. Two shots behind with three to play, the Colombian hit an aggressive drive on the par-4 16th that set up wedge for a short birdie, then holed an 18-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 17th to tie for the lead. He finished with a 6-foot par on the 18th for a 68.
It was the largest playoff on the PGA Tour since Alex Cejka won a five-man playoff in Puerto Rico in 2015.
Hughes had the best chance at a birdie on the 18th over the two playoff holes, though it wasn't as easy as an ordinary 10-footer, not with darkness setting in.
''I almost contemplated waiting for tomorrow morning with that putt, but everyone was going,'' he said. ''It's tough. But again, everyone's doing it, so it's fair for everybody. ... I played the ball outside left and it went right, and then at the end it went left and I couldn't see it. I mean, I can't see anything right now.''
Norlander was happy to still be playing. His tee shot on the second playoff hole stopped a foot from the hazard, and he managed to gouge it out of thick grass and over a tree to the green for a two-putt par.
Villegas kept making putts until he couldn't see them. After all his hard word to get into the playoff, he had a tough putt from just over 4 feet in the dark to stay in the playoff and he poured it in the middle.
''You have a chance to win a PGA Tour event, and I'm sure everybody has no problem coming at 8 a.m. and just teeing it up,'' Villegas said.
No one else was close to joining the playoff. Jim Furyk had a 67 and was part of a large group at 14-under 268. That included C.T. Pan of Taiwan, who faced a longer day than even the players who had to return Monday.
Pan left after the tournament to catch a flight from Savannah to New York, then New York to Hong Kong, and then a connection to Melbourne where he was to arrive Tuesday night in Australia for the World Cup.
Round 3 - Mackenzie Hughes holds on to slim advantageNovember 20, 2016
One bad decision cost Mackenzie Hughes his three-shot lead in the RSM Classic.
Remarkable poise and a pure putting stroke for the Canadian rookie left him one round away from a wire-to-wire victory at Sea Island.
Hughes bounced back from his blunder with a tough par save, three birdies and a 2-under 68 that gave him a one-shot lead over Billy Horschel, Camilo Villegas and C.T. Pan going into the final round expected to feature more strong wind.
''Everyone's going to be fighting the same kind of nerves trying to win, and hopefully, I'll be on top again tomorrow,'' Hughes said.
Hughes was sailing along on the Seaside course Saturday, bogey-free for the first 46 holes of the tournament, when he tried to do too much from an awkward lie in a fairway bunker on the 11th hole instead of pitching back to the fairway. His feet slipped in the sand on his first shot, and it stayed in the bunker in a worse lie. The next shot was so fat it only went about 40 yards into another bunker. And then he three-putted from 50 feet and his lead had vanished.
''It was almost like I had been punched in the face there, making a triple after everything seemed to be going pretty smoothly,'' Hughes said.
He kept enough of senses to remind himself that he was still tied for the lead in only his fifth event of his rookie season, and there was plenty of golf left. What followed was his most important shot of the week, a super pitch up a steep slope to a back pin to tap-in range to save par, and then three birdies over the next four holes.
''That pitch on 12 was probably my shot of the day,'' he said. ''Because if I follow that up with a bogey, the wheels start to come off even more.''
Hughes was at 16-under 196.
Horschel, who hasn't won since the Tour Championship two years ago when he captured the FedEx Cup, holed a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of the Seaside course at Sea Island for a 65. Villegas overcame a double bogey early in his round and finished with four straight birdies for a 64.
Joining them at 15-under 197 was another PGA Tour rookie, Pan of Taiwan. He shot a 67 playing in the final group.
More than costing Hughes a big lead, that triple bogey made the final round of the year on the PGA Tour far more bunched than it needed to be. Ten players were within four shots of the lead, a group that included Charles Howell III (13-under 199) and Stewart Cink (12-under 200).
Horschel has slipped to No. 76 in the world since his big FedEx Cup run in 2014. He has worked hard on his short game and feels that turning around, and he believes the windy conditions after two days of calm might have helped someone who hits the ball as crisply as he does.
He thinks experience will play a role, too.
''There's some young guys up there on the leaderboard that haven't been in ... obviously, they've won other times, but out on the PGA Tour it's a little bit different. But it all depends on what kind of conditions we get. I would to have similar conditions today because I think the better player shows up in these conditions.''
Villegas also has gone two years without a victory, and he lost his card this year and only got into the tournament as a past champion. One week could change everything.
''Let me tell you something, it's 18 more holes of golf. I'm feeling good,'' Villegas said. ''I've been a lot more comfortable than I have been. I think it's all about having the mind in the right place. My shots when I'm calm out there are pretty good and hopefully we can accomplish that tomorrow. I think the leaderboard is jam-packed as always. We're playing the PGA Tour, the best players in the world, but I've got to wake up tomorrow believing I can do it.''
Pan, a former No. 1 amateur when he was at Washington, went from four shots behind to a one-shot lead in two holes when he rolled in a pair of birdies and Hughes made a mess of the 11th hole. Pan dropped a shot on the next hole with a wild tee shot that the wind made look worse, but he was never out of position the rest of the way.
Hughes, who got married in his only week off this fall, has led at Sea Island from his opening 61 on the Seaside course. He will try to join Cody Gribble as PGA Tour rookies to win in the fall portion of the season, with one difference. This victory earns a spot in the Masters.
Round 2 - Mackenzie Hughes leads at halfwayNovember 19, 2016
Five tournaments into his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Mackenzie Hughes has the 36-hole lead at Sea Island and expects a few nerves.
That weekend he spent with Phil Mickelson should at least help.
Hughes had another bogey-free round Friday and took care of the par 5s on the Plantation Course for a 5-under 67, giving him a two-shot lead over C.T. Pan going into the weekend of the RSM Classic, the final PGA Tour event of the year.
Hughes at was at 14-under 128.
Pan also is a rookie, and perhaps they can take inspiration from rookie Cody Gribble winning in Mississippi three weeks ago. Hughes and Pan both spent last year on the Web.com Tour to earn their cards.
''There's going to be nerves tomorrow, and I'm going to be a little jittery starting out, but that's completely natural,'' Hughes said. ''But I just think guys come off the Web.com Tour that ... for example, I won in Missouri and I feel like the win translates to being able to win out here. The margin is so small that the things I did on that weekend to win that tournament are the same things I'll have to do Saturday and Sunday.''
Hughes started his rookie season in the Safeway Open, made the cut and wound up in the same group with Mickelson, who attracted the largest gallery.
''The atmosphere was a dream start for me,'' Hughes said. ''We played the first day, and I had a 9-footer on 19 for par to make par and stay tied with him. I was so pumped that I made it because I got one more round out of it. He was a super nice guy, really welcoming. It was a nice way to break yourself in.''
There wasn't much of a gallery at Sea Island on another pristine day for scoring, so ideal that the cut came at 5-under par. That probably won't change for the weekend, especially with tournament host Davis Love III and Sea Island neighbors Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar among those missing the cut.
Even so, it was an experience that could come in handy for the 25-year-old Canadian.
''Being with him for two days and with his galleries and all the distractions going on there, that's probably as good a preparation as you would have for tomorrow and Sunday,'' Hughes said. ''There was so much learning going on that weekend that I'll be able to apply.''
It was the lowest cut on the PGA Tour since 5 under at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
Hughes opened with a 9-under 61 on the Seaside course at Sea Island, while he didn't hit the ball as cleanly over at Plantation, he had few complaints. He picked up three of his birdies at the par 5s, even on the 18th when he found a fairway bunker off the tee and had to lay up. He hit wedge to 8 feet and made the putt.
''Today was definitely a little more work,'' Hughes said, though he quickly added that 67 was ''no slouch of a score and I would take two more of those in a heartbeat.''
Hughes and Pan, who shot a 64 at Seaside, played together on the Canadian Tour two years ago, and then all last year on the Web.com Tour. Pan had a brief stay atop the world amateur ranking in 2013 when he won eight times at Washington, and he made the cut as an amateur at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
They will be joined in the final group by Hudson Swafford, who lives at Sea Island and shot a 67 on the Plantation. Swafford was three shots behind, along with Chad Campbell, Chesson Hadley and Blayne Barber.
''It should be fun,'' Pan said. ''We played on the Canadian tour last year, and then we played the Web.com Tour this year and now we are both on the PGA Tour. So it's exciting to see both of us play well out there, because it's a dream come true for both of us.''
That much was clear when Hughes came into the media center for an interview. He left his seat, walked to the back of the room and handed his phone to his mother to take a picture. It was that kind of moment for him.
Even with a two-shot lead, however, the conditions have been such that low scores are available to anyone at any time. Twenty-five players were separated by just five shots with two more rounds to play.
That group includes Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink. Four shots behind was Jonathan Byrd, a five-time PGA Tour winner who spent last year on the Web.com Tour and still doesn't have full status. He is playing this week on a sponsor's exemption and wants to make the most out of limited chances like this.
Round 1 - Stewart Cink opens with a 62November 18, 2016
A great start to the week got even better for Stewart Cink on Thursday.
Three days after his wife, Lisa, received a good report on her Stage 4 breast cancer, she was in the gallery at Sea Island as he posted a career-low 62 to finish one shot behind in the RSM Classic.
''Huge blessing,'' Cink said.
It showed in his easy smile and the peaceful walk on a gorgeous day in the Golden Isles, a happy day in a year filled with unimaginable trials.
Cink, winless since his British Open victory at Turnberry in 2009, stepped away from the PGA Tour in May when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. After nine rounds of chemotherapy, doctors at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston switched her over to what Cink described as a maintenance program.
''I am just really encouraged by the way she's been able to fight and handle it,'' Cink said. ''She's had definitely a lot of ups and downs and she feels pretty well, and she got a good report Monday - real good. She's really like an inspiration for me.''
Mackenzie Hughes, the Canadian rookie, flirted with a sub-60 round until pars on the final three holes on the Seaside course for a 61 and a one-shot lead over Cink and Jonathan Byrd. All of them were at Seaside in ideal conditions for scoring.
Cink was a strong presence, especially with his wife in the gallery.
She has only missed one tournament since a sporadic return to golf, usually walking 18 holes. The exception was the St. Jude Classic at Memphis this summer, when she only managed nine holes each round.
''It was about a million degrees,'' Cink said. ''The wig is hot.''
Cink, with six PGA Tour victories, five Ryder Cup teams and a claret jug from his British Open playoff victory over Tom Watson, was jolted when his wife was diagnosed in the spring. His primary concern was her health, and over time, he worked on his own state of mind.
''I'm just trying to let golf be a piece of my life and not let life be a piece of golf,'' Cink said. ''It grew out of our situation with Lisa where I felt like I had a chance to do some things to just kind of turn myself around. The last few years haven't been that great for me productivity-wise on the golf course. So I decided to make some changes and felt like if Lisa can fight, I can fight.''
It started to turn at the end of last season when he tied for 14th in the Wyndham Championship, his best finish in more than a year. He is coming off encouraging performances in Las Vegas and Mexico (he tied for 15th at both tournaments), and then headed to Houston for his wife's visit with doctors.
That felt like a victory.
''She had very limited side effects, which I can only say that she's being looked after by someone bigger than us. So she's responded well,'' Cink said. ''She's still got Stage 4 cancer. The cancer, it's like when the horses get out of their yard. It's hard to get them back in, can't get them back in. So she's going to be on maintenance hopefully for a long time.''
Cink is using his one-time exemption from the top 25 in career money to play this season, though he doesn't know how often he will play.
He only knows he won't be at tournaments without his wife.
''If you see me out here playing, then you can assume that means that she's doing fairly well, at least well enough to travel,'' he said. ''Because I'm not going anywhere without her.''
She was in for quite a show on Thursday.
Cink poured it on toward the end of his round with four straight birdies, capping it off with a fairway metal to the fringe on the par-5 seventh for a two-putt birdie that put him at 9 under for the round. With the Seaside a par 70, he had a reasonable shot at 59.
''It did cross my mind,'' he said. ''That's actually the first time I've ever been that low where I had a chance to shoot that.''
The only blemish was a three-putt from 45 feet on the ninth hole for his only bogey. It was still a career-best on the PGA Tour by one shot.
Hughes actually thought about a 58 when he reached 9 under with four holes to play. Byrd had five birdies in a six-hole stretch late in his round. No one shot better than a 7-under 65 on the Plantation Course, which is where Cink plays on Friday.
Tournament host Davis Love III shot even-par 72 on the Plantation.
|T13||USA||Charles Howell III||-12||18||1||67||65||67||71||270|
|CUT||KOR||Si Woo Kim||-3||-||Par||70||69||-||-||139|
|CUT||RSA||Tyrone Van Aswegen||-2||-||Par||71||69||-||-||140|
|CUT||ZWE||Brendon De Jonge||-1||-||Par||73||68||-||-||141|
|CUT||USA||Davis Love III||Par||-||Par||72||70||-||-||142|
|CUT||ARG||Miguel Angel Carballo||3||-||Par||74||71||-||-||145|