The beauty of Mackenzie Hughes’ rather ugly par that won him the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Ga., is that it saves him the nagging of any nit-pickers who might be out in full force, reminding him of that nasty triple bogey he took on Saturday, or the putt he missed in the darkness on Sunday evening had he not won.
Shoulda-woulda-coulda. You know the ones.
Hughes is too nice a guy to actually flip the bird at critics, so he let his actions do the talking for him and the result is his first PGA Tour win, $1-million, a two-year exemption on tour and a ticket into the Masters.
That’s thick and sweet icing on a season that also included his first win on the Web .com Tour at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., in August, his wedding last month to Jenna Shaw and eventual graduation to the PGA Tour.
It wasn’t easy, however, nor should it be. On a frigid morning, he missed the green on the par three 17th and pitched up a slope, but fell short of the green.
Figuring he needed to make his putt just to continue on in the playoff, he sunk the 18-footer and, much to his surprise, the other three players with shorter putts all miss their par putts.
Two days short of his 26th birthday, Hughes’s life continues to change at mach speed, but going forward, the way this all played out gives him not only that first win to cherish, but also a test that he passed big time.
You hear so often from players that the more times they get near the top of the leaderboard, perhaps play in the final group on Sunday, the more they learn and this was a learning experience for the champ.
Hughes’ ability to deal with the adversity that everybody runs into at some point on the golf course – and in life for that matter – is also one of the benefits he takes forward when the season gets back in full swing in the new year.
Anybody who has followed his career knows that he’s faced uphill climbs in the past. Before a tie for fifth at the Lecom Health Challenge on the Web.com Tour in July, Hughes missed the cut in eight of the previous 13 events and was barely a blip on the radar screen.
A little more than a month later, he had his first Web .com Tour win at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in Springfield, Mo., and it was there that his life began to change. Hughes would go on to finish 15th on the Web.com money list and the top 25 graduate to the PGA Tour.
It was a rough and bumpy road just to get to the PGA Tour and, as it turns out, his first win there got just as bumpy, but he prevailed.
Hughes looked awesome early at the RSM Classic, particularly in that 61 he shot in the opening round. He went the first 46 holes without a bogey, but how often will you get a run like that?
Imagine what was going through his mind when that triple bogey struck at the 11th hole on Saturday, yet he came back with three birdies.
Imagine what went through his mind when he missed that putt on Sunday to extend the playoff into Monday. Yet, he still won.
Things will rarely go the way they did over the first two-plus rounds, but triple bogeys and missed putts can come out of nowhere at any time and knowing he can deal with it will mean a lot once the calendar flips to 2017 and Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and crew begin to filter back in.
Winning ugly can be a beautiful thing when you look at it long term.