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Canada´s Mackenzie Hughes finishes 2nd at Honda Classic

Hughes, a 29-year-old Canadian who has struggled since winning for the first time on Tour in 2016, was one back of playing partner Sungjae Im with just the par-5 18th remaining at the Honda Classic on Sunday. A birdie would have put the pressure on Im, and an eagle would have all but guaranteed a playoff, if not a victory.

Hughes found the fairway with his drive and then took a big swing from 254 yards out — only to have his ball hook badly into the grandstands left of the green. But turns out it was a good miss for Hughes, especially since missing right would have meant a water ball.

Despite his ball coming to rest somewhere in the grandstand, Hughes was allowed to take free relief under Model Local Rule F-23, Temporary Immovable Obstructions. That meant he got a drop and had 72 yards remaining, and he even had a better angle.

Still hitting just his third shot, Hughes pitched it to 21 feet but missed his birdie putt, which would have forced a playoff.

He made his par and signed for a four-under 66, which turned out to be good for a solo second-place conclusion and $763,000 check, his biggest since he earned $1.08 million for winning the RSM Classic in 2016.

“It’s a tough shot,” Hughes told reporters afterward. “Wind is in off the right, and you’re trying to cut one but you can’t over-cut it because then you’re going to be knocked down by the wind. I was grinding my butt off … but I had so much fun this week.”

While Hughes’ miss into 18 could have been worse, the same can’t be said for the final pairing of Tommy Fleetwood and Brendan Steele. Steele needed an eagle to catch Im and Fleetwood required a birdie, but both of their comeback dreams were dashed when they missed right with their second shot and found the water. Both made bogeys.

This isn’t the first time a pro has taken advantage from a generous break off the grandstands, and some have even admitted to it.

In March of last year at the Maybank Championship in Malaysia, Scott Hend hit a low shot through the trees that banked off a grandstand behind the green and back onto the putting surface, leading to an easy two-putt par. He admitted he played it that way and conquered the tournament a day later.

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