Video clips of Canadian Mackenzie Hughes draining a 47-foot birdie putt on No. 17 at the Travelers Championship – making a sharp right turn before heading into the hole – were starting to circulate online when he turned around and drained a 43-footer to birdie No. 18, too.
The back-to-back birdies put the product of Dundas, Ont., into a tie for third with American Will Gordon at 17 under on Sunday, and two shots back of eventual winner Dustin Johnson.
Although it was a flashy finish for Hughes, it was still something of a disappointment after the Canadian fired a 10-under 60 on Thursday to hold a three-stroke lead after the first round.
“Those last two holes were a huge bonus,” said Hughes. “The weekend was pretty frustrating for me. I felt like I was playing well enough to shoot some better scores, and it just wasn’t quite happening for me.”
PGA Tour events are not open to spectators in an effort to protect players and fans alike from COVID-19.
So when Hughes drained the impressive breaking putt on No. 17 at TPC at River Highlands, the celebration was limited to a couple of quiet fist pumps as he walked over to his caddy.
“That was a putt that would just make people erupt, the way it was a pretty dramatic putt. It broke 20 feet, went in with perfect speed. That would have been really exciting,” said Hughes. “No. 18 would have been an amphitheatre and it would have, again, kind of charged the crowd up.
“It was definitely different to hear crickets when you make some putts, but I was happy nonetheless.”
Hughes is projected to jump up 24 spots in the FedExCup rankings after the top three performance to sit 46th.
Johnson closed with a 3-under 67 for a one-stroke victory over Kevin Streelman. Johnson, who extended his career-long season victory streak to 13, last won in Mexico City in March 2019.
“I’m definitely proud of myself for continuing the streak and I want to keep it going,” Johnson said. “It was a long time between wins, though, and, so, hopefully it won’t be that long for the next one.”
Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus each won in 17 consecutive years. Johnson failed to win in 2014, but is given credit for winning in the 2013-14 season from his victory in the fall of 2013 in Shanghai. The tour changed to a wraparound season in 2013.
Johnson tapped in for par on the par-4 18th, raised his ball to acknowledge the smattering of applause from course workers, officials and reporters, the only in-person witnesses allowed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He finished at 19-under 261 for his 21st PGA Tour title.
Streelman also shot 67.
Streelman, who made seven straight birdies to win at TPC River Highlands in 2014, had a 37-foot birdie try on 18 that ended up just short and right.
He was two strokes behind Johnson on the 17th fairway when the weather horn blew for an hour-long storm delay.
Johnson came out of the delay and hit his tee shot on 16 into a greenside bunker. His second shot went well past the hole and made bogey to cut his lead to a stroke.
“I’ve had a few missed cuts, so to come back and finish a solo second is nice, but to be that close and perform and be right there, I’m just a little disappointed right now,” Streelman said.
Johnson was at 19 under when his tee shot on the par-4 15th went left and came inches from going into the signature lake that surrounds the finishing holes. His first pitch didn’t make it to the green, and he hit the second to 4 feet to save par.
“It was lucky, but a still had to made a good up-and-down to make par,” he said.
Gordon, who has no status on either the PGA Tour or the Korn Ferry Tour, had seven birdies in a 64. His third-place finish was just enough to earn him a special temporary card and unlimited exemptions for the rest of the season.
His lone bogey came on 17, and briefly dropped him to fourth place.
Johnson started the day two strokes behind Brendon Todd, and took the lead after three straight birdies put him at 20 under after 10 holes. Todd shot a 75 to tie for 11th at 13 under. He made a 7 on the par-4 12th.
Bryson DeChambeau shot a 68 to tie for sixth at 15 under. Top-ranked Rory McIlroy tied for 11th at 13 under after a 67.
Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., had a 3-over 73 day to finish 66th at even par.
There were seven COVID-19-related withdrawals from the Connecticut event, with two positive tests among players. Cameron champ withdrew Tuesday and Denny McCarthy had a positive test on Friday.
The PGA Tour is making some tweaks to its coronavirus policies as a result of this week’s issues. Players, caddies and anyone else considered “inside the bubble” will have to test negative before being allowed on the grounds of the Detroit Golf Club for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.