Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes sank a 15-foot par putt on the third extra hole Monday to capture a darkness-halted playoff and win the US PGA RSM Classic.
Colombia’s Camilo Villegas, Sweden’s Henrik Norlander and American Blayne Barber all missed shorter putts on the par-3 17th hole at Georgia’s Sea Island resort to make Hughes only the third PGA wire-to-wire rookie winner in the past 20 years.
Hughes, ranked 287th in the world, booked his spot in next year’s Masters and PGA Championship as well as the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.
The 25-year-old from Hamilton, twice a Canadian Amateur champion, took his first PGA crown in only his ninth tour start, claiming the $1.08 million top prize as well as playing rights through September of 2019. Others in the playoff took $396,000.
Five players had finished Sunday level for the lead after 72 holes on 17-under par 265, but American Billy Horschel fell out of the playoff by botching a tap-in par putt on the first extra hole. The others all parred 18 again on the second playoff hole before darkness delayed the finish.
Hughes had an eight-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win but missed and needed to two-foot comeback putt to stay in the hunt.
The foursome returned in cold and breezy conditions Monday to a 189-yard 17th hole that surrendered only nine final-round birdies but only six bogeys as well.
All four players missed the green off the tee and Hughes was the only one not to reach the green with his second shot, his chip halting just short on the fringe.
But Hughes found the correct line and rolled home his tension-packed putt to swing the pressure onto his rivals.
“I just tried to make it, do my best to make a par and give them something to look at,” Hughes said. “I figured I had to make it or I would be out. I hit it with good pace. I knew it was on the right line. It was great to see it go in.”
Barber missed a 10-foot par putt to fall out and Norlander, playing on a sponsor’s invitation, blasted out of a bunker to eight feet but missed his par putt, settling for his best-ever PGA finish.
That left the stage to Villegas, the only player in the group to birdie the 17th during the week, doing so twice. But the South American missed a six footer to give newlywed Hughes the victory, which he celebrated with a hug from his wife.
Hughes, who had opened with a 61, had been second during the week in scrambling, getting up and down from off the green 17 times in 20 attempts.
– ‘Positive week’ for Camilo –
Villegas, 34, was the only prior PGA winner among the last four, having sought his fifth tour title after the 2008 BMW Championship and Tour Championship, 2010 Honda Classic and 2014 Wyndham Championship.
Villegas had not cracked the top 10 since that victory in Greensboro some 27 months ago until this week.
“It was a very positive week, a lot of things heading in the right direction,” said Villegas. “Mackenzie made a great putt there. Congratulations to him. He played well.”
Villegas had also been the only member of the last five with prior PGA playoff experience, losing to American Mark Wilson at the 2007 Honda Classic but beating Spain’s Sergio Garcia at the 2008 Tour Championship.
The South American had slid to 424th in the world rankings and is playing on a lesser status reserved for past tour winners.
© 2016 AFP
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