Neither Mackenzie Hughes nor Corey Conners came away with the Claret Jug at the Open Championship on Sunday, but both Canadians showed they have arrived as regular contenders on golf’s biggest stages.
Hughes tied for sixth place in his Open debut, the best result for a Canadian-born player in the history of the major championship. Conners shared 15th spot for his best career Open finish.
Both have featured high on leaderboards at recent majors, although they’ve yet to figure out how to get over the Sunday hump. Hughes co-led this summer’s U.S. Open after three rounds, while Conners had top-10 results in the past two Masters Tournaments and the most recent Players Championship. He also held the first-round lead at the 2021 PGA Championship.
Hughes, 30, led the Open early in the first round before signing his scorecard for a 4-under-par 66 that left him two shots off the lead.
“I feel like I do belong in this setting,” Hughes said after the round, commenting as much on his affinity for the creative shotmaking required in links golf as his place in big events.
“The tougher the better,” Hughes’ caddie, Jace Walker added, telling the Toronto Star his boss brings out his best in difficult situations.
Hughes stayed in contention with scores of 69 and 68 but stumbled early Sunday, making bogey on three of the first four holes. He rallied, though, to close with 69. It was the second consecutive major at which Hughes had a chance to win. He played in the last group during the final round at this year’s U.S. Open but struggled, suffering bad luck when his ball went into a tree and did not come down on the 11th hole at Torrey Pines. He wound up tying for 15th.
Hughes’ finish Sunday ensures he’ll return for next year’s 150th Open at St. Andrews.
“I felt like I was kind of born to play links golf,” he told the media after his round Sunday.
The 29-year-old Conners feels his time is about to come, too.
“In mathematical terms, I feel like it’s likely,” the actuarial math graduate said after the third round in forecasting his chances of one day winning a major. “I feel ready.”
Conners began the final round four shots off the lead, paired in the penultimate group with American Jordan Spieth. Bogeys at the first two holes set the tone for his day. Despite bouncing back with a birdie-eagle combo to climb back into the mix, h made four bogeys in the last 11 holes to shoot 73.
With his world ranking, No. 38 as of last week, Conners also is on good footing to get into the 2022 Open.
The next big stage for both Canadians is the Olympics in Tokyo. They’re in the 60-man field in the golf competition that begins July 29.
The two other Canadians who qualified for the Open, Adam Hadwin and Richard T. Lee, missed the cut.