Hughes proud of rookie season on Tour, sets top 50 goal

TORONTO, Ontario - The 2016-17 season may have ended a week too early for Mackenzie Hughes, but as a whole, there was a lot to be proud of in his first full year on the PGA Tour.

"Sure I'm a bit disappointed, but I'm trying to look at the big picture, and try and keep that in mind as I go forward," Hughes told theScore on Wednesday. "You know, if you had told me at the beginning of the year, that this is where I'd be as a rookie, having a chance to make it to the Tour Championship, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. So, overall I loved the year, I loved the stuff I learned, and think all of the things that have happened are going to make me a better player next year."

Entering the final round last Sunday at the BMW Championship, Hughes was projected to finish inside the top 30 and qualify for East Lake, but he closed with a 74, falling outside the cut line. The 26-year-old said he couldn't quite get the breaks needed to turn his momentum after a tough start to the round, but will certainly learn from the disappointing result.

"There were some moments where the tide could've shifted, and I potentially could've made a run there toward the end," Hughes said. "I just couldn't get those putts to fall when I needed them to, but I'll learn from that experience, and I'll be better next time I'm in that scenario. I know I can handle that situation ... I mean I've won on the PGA Tour, and I handled the nerves coming down the stretch. It's just that on that particular day I didn't do the best job of it."

Hughes' playoff win last November at the RSM Classic provided him with an opportunity that others rookies didn't have - an exemption into some of the top events on Tour - and he took advantage, gaining plenty of valuable knowledge from playing a full schedule on golf's premier circuit.

"I think the biggest thing is that year of experience. There's little things I've picked up here and there ... where to stay, where you eat when you're in town, and learning the golf courses. Those are all massive things," Hughes said. "I think the biggest thing for me for that year on Tour, seeing everything, knowing I can play with these guys, seeing a lot of golf played around me."

And while the victory and his first Masters appearance were highlights in his maiden season, the Dundas, Ontario, native added that being paired with some of the game's best stood out along the way.

"Playing with Phil (Mickelson), playing with Jordan Spieth a couple of times. All those experiences are pretty massive, and they are a lot of fun," Hughes said. "They definitely stick out as memories that are different from others. There's a ton of great players, but sometimes you know when you're playing someone that is a little bit different, and the crowds out there certainly let you that this is not an ordinary pairing."

Although Hughes, currently ranked 107th in the world, hasn't yet set his objectives for next season, he does have one in mind before the curtain closes on 2017.

"I sort of have a mini-goal for myself - to get into the top 50 in the world by the end of the year," he said. "That's a big goal, that's a big thing to try and accomplish, but it would be nice to try and be able to do that, because it gets you into all of the majors for next year."

Hughes plans to begin his 2017-18 campaign at the Safeway Open, but the remainder of his fall schedule is uncertain as his wife is due with the couple's first child at the end of October.

"I'm trying to be very flexible and fluid in the fall with the baby, whatever that baby does, I will adapt accordingly."

Hughes proud of rookie season on Tour, sets top 50 goal
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