Mackenzie Hughes’ hometown of Dundas, Ont., isn’t far from the gates of Glen Abbey, but for all intents and purposes, it was a world away.
“I could probably count on one hand the rounds I played here as a junior. Back then, Glen Abbey was a really big deal to get on and I wasn’t in a position to be getting on here, but I played here probably eight, nine, 10 times and I’m pretty familiar with the place and feel comfortable around here,” he said.
Hughes, who had the par three course he grew up on at Dundas Valley named after him, looked particularly comfortable in his most recent outing at the Abbey, that being a five-under 67 on Thursday that left him just two shots off the lead after the first round.
“If you hit it in the fairway, you can be aggressive. The few fairways I missed, I was just trying to make par and you have to be a little bit defensive. All in all it was a great day, probably could be a bit better, but I made a couple nice par putts, too. Overall, I’m happy with my start,” said Hughes of a round that saw him put up six birdies against one bogey on 17.
“It was mostly stress-free. There was a couple nice little par saves I made. I made one little hiccup on the 17th hole, missed a short putt, but other than that, it was pretty rock solid, lots of fairways and gave myself some really good looks,” he said.
“The birdie putts I made were relatively close, inside 10 feet, 12 feet. Those are nice days when you can be aggressive from that 15-foot range. It was a fun day,” he added.
Hughes leads the Canadian contingent after the first round and will be the focus of the home crowd hoping he can be the first homie to win the Open since Pat Fletcher did it in 1954. That quest has been mentioned on Canadian fairways long before Hughes got to the PGA Tour this season.
“It’s pretty much media stuff. We’re aware about it, but it gets talked about it enough. At the end of the day, we prepare 30 weeks a year trying to win tournaments and this is another one I’ll be trying to win,” he said.
“To have this be in Canada, obviously it would be very special, but you just can’t try too hard to win your national open, because it’s not going to happen if you try that hard,” said Hughes.
“There’s a little bit of pressure. I’d be lying if I said it was a normal week. It’s not. You see a lot of familiar faces in the gallery, people calling your name. On the PGA Tour, I don’t get noticed for my appearance usually,” he added.
“It’s been a lot of fun. It’s really great to have the Canadian support, and we really look forward to this one every year,” said Hughes.
For more on the first round, click here.