November 21, 2017.
No, that’s not right.
It was Nov 21, 2016, but it counts in 2017. We know the day and the month, but nobody can figure out what year it is during these last few months of the calendar year.
Regardless, that’s the way things are on the PGA Tour with the new wraaround season. In any case, it was a special day for Canadian golf because another young up-and-comer, Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., won on tour for his first time.
On the off chance you hadn’t noticed, he is one of a multitude of fine up-and-coming Canadian players either on the PGA Tour and or playing on other tours around the world. Nick Taylor (PGA Tour winner), Adam Hadwin, Corey Connors, Adam Svensson to name a few join Graham Delaat, Brad Fritsch and David Hearn.
Hughes is a perfect example of what Tiger Woods meant when he said don’t rush your career, learn to win at every level.
Hughes won as an amateur with two Canadian Amateur Championships, then as a fledgling, he won on the Cape Breton Celtic Classic on the Mackenzie Tour. He also won earlier this year on the Web .com Tour (Price Cutter Championship) and now has won on the PGA Tour.
It is never easy to earn the privilege to play the PGA Tour for a living and Mackenzie Hughes has paid his dues.
Why is he different? What are the attributes that allow him to succeed where others have struggled? I think there are three things that have contributed to his success and will allow him to continue doing well.
,First, he is tenacious. He is a grinder, which bodes well for the week-in. week-out endurance test known as the PGA tour. It is the inner belief required to turn a tie for 70th place into a top 25 showing.
Last week, in rounds one and two, the tournament was a shootout which Mackenzie won easily. producing the lead. In rounds three and four the weather changed and the format became one of ‘hanging on and grinding out a score, which he also did very well.
Secondly, his favoured tee shot ball flight is a fade. Over the course of a season when a player can drive the ball into the fairway repeatedly and control the “run out,” he/she will hit more fairways, translating into better proximity to the hole with his irons.
Third, he has a putting stroke that many players dream of for themselves. There are players who make a living on the PGA Tour as being premier ball strikers, witness Charles Howell III who, at best, is an average putter but has lifetime earnings of over $30-million. However, when a reasonable ball striker can putt, they can perform at a very high level. Witness Mike Weir.
Hughes isn’t a prodigy.
He is 26 years old, but he is youthful and has shown steady improvement at every level and with his victory comes what I believe to be the most important side benefit – a two year exemption. Not only is it for two years it is for the balance of the 2017 season and then two full years.
When you combine this with a one-time, life-time, one-year exemption for past champions, he has a window of close to four years to develop his career The winner’s cheque of $1.08-million will spend well, as will all of the cash from the new sponsors he attracts.
His feeling of belonging on the PGA tour and the invitations to the most prestigious events on the PGA Tour serve to build confidence and expand his horizons. Being a champion can also have an effect on his PGA Tour pension.
Some of these thoughts may not be anywhere near Hughes’ thoughts today, but they become very important someday. However, nothing will contribute more to his future than almost four years of playing anywhere and any time he wishes without the possibility of losing exempt status.
Think what might have happened if he finished tied for second at the RSM Classic and won approximately $350,000. Players require about $750,000 to $800,000 to finish in the top 125 to keep their card for 2018, a definite pressure for first-timers, plus he would lose all those delightful invitations. His road to continued success would be longer.
Not that I wish misfortune on anyone because golf is tough enough, but Billy Horschel (one my favorite swings on the tour) had the least on the line of the five players in the playoff. He has exempt status, has won several times and earned millions.
The others had a lot more to win and/or lose.
Camilo Villegas is using a past champions exemption, Henrik Norlander has no PGA Tour status and Blayne Barber has a similar career to Hughes in that both are successful amateur players and then top amateurs followed by Web .com graduates who are working their way toward their dream of a productive career on the PGA Tour.
Hoisting the trophy means everything to any one of them in a variety of ways! I’m thrilled for Hughes but I’d have been very happy for each of others.
I still wonder about the PGA Tour and their management of playoffs. Doesn’t anyone carry a light meter? Why don’t they re-shuffle the honour after every hole to rotate the value of hitting first and/or last? Why do they start the playoff at 8 a.m? Why not a more civilized 10:00? The Score logo on Hughes’ shirt needs some work if people are going to read it.
Mackenzie Hughes is the most recent Canadian victor on the PGA Tour and congratulations to all who contributed to the development of a new Canadian inspiration.