Mackenzie Hughes' schedule is about to get a whole lot busier - and he doesn't mind at all.
Hughes is coming off a tie for 13th at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, his best result of the 2017-18 season. After becoming a parent for the first time in the fall, he’s worked on adjusting to life away from golf with a growing family. However, he admits last week he was feeling like his old self again on the course.
And given his schedule for the next two months - a stretch that includes five consecutive tournaments - that feeling comes at a great time.
“It felt good to be out there and back in the mix, but it didn’t feel out of the ordinary,” Hughes told theScore in a telephone interview from Des Moines, Iowa, the site of this week’s John Deere Classic. “I know this year hasn’t been great, but last year I amassed quite a few nice finishes and I know what it’s like to be up around that spot.
“I’m pleased with the progress and looking forward to doing more of the same the next few weeks.”
Hughes sits 183rd in the FedEx Cup standings for the season. Although he is fully exempt for next year thanks to his win at The RSM Classic in 2016, he has a laser-like focus on finishing in the top 125 in order to earn a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The top 30 in the FedEx Cup after three playoff events earn a spot in The Tour Championship and gain exemptions into all the majors and the World Golf Championship events next year. Hughes finished 36th a season ago, and is more motivated than ever to improve on his play.
“I know that it really takes one good week,” he said. “I could find a lot of small things where I could be a little better. If I was a shot a day better I could have potentially finished second (last week). A second-place finish totally changes your year. I know it’s really that close.”
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
Hughes qualified for a spot in the U.S. Open in mid-June, his fourth career major championship. He says he enjoyed the experience at Shinnecock despite missing the cut.
“You can’t contend in majors unless you’re in them,” says Hughes. “So it was still fun to be there. Another one under the belt for experience.”
Hughes is playing this week at the John Deere Classic before heading to Kentucky next week for the Barbasol Championship; if he wins the John Deere Classic, he’ll instead punch a ticket to the Open Championship. After that, he'll participate in the RBC Canadian Open at Glen Abbey Golf Club, a course just 30 minutes away from where Hughes was born and raised.
Hughes finished as low Canadian in 2017, and although the opportunity to win his home country’s national open - a rare chance for many on the PGA Tour - is a big one, he’s trying to treat it like any other Tour event.
“It’s easy for us to try to make it bigger than a regular tour event. Granted, it is for us, but you wanted to treat it as normal as possible,” he says. “Outside the majors, that’s the one you want to win. But you have to keep it all in check. The more you want to win, the harder it is to win.”
Adam Stanley has written about golf since 2011 for PGATOUR.com, LPGA.com, and the Canadian Press, among other organizations. He's also a frequent contributor to The Globe and Mail. Find him on Twitter @adam_stanley.