“It was one of the strongest pressures I have felt in a long time,” said Hughes.
Of course, it wasn’t just any putt. After blocking his approach from the middle of the fairway, Hughes had to convert his sand save to finish T-10 at Olympia Fields and earn enough points to sneak into the championship on the 30-man circuit. Had he missed the putt, Adam Long would have played next week at East Lake.
But Hughes rolled into the normal stop, raised his fist triumphantly and looked skyward. In qualifying for the season finale, Hughes will return to the Masters next year for the first time since 2017. He will also play in the US Open, Open, WGC-Mexico Championship and Sentry Tournament of Champions. . Of course, he will also have a chance to win $ 15 million next week in Atlanta, where he will throw 10 shots behind Dustin Johnson.
“I’m obviously not supposed to go do anything at the circuit championship, but I’m 10 back, and you never know what might happen,” said Hughes. “I know you can’t win if you’re not there, so the first step is done.”
Hughes entered the week 36th in points and moved up to 28th. He was one of only two players to make the top 30 this week and will be joined in Atlanta by his end-game partner, Joaquin Niemann. Niemann won the season opener at the Greenbrier almost a year ago, and he started Week 31. But the Chilean held a share of the lead over the last nine before finishing in T-3, a result which brought him to No.18 in points, which means he will play next week at 2 under par.
While a failed little bird on No.15 dented Niemann’s hopes of catching Jon Rahm for the tournament title, he is still satisfied with a performance that earned him a first appearance in Atlanta in his second season. complete on tour.
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“It’s great to have one of those weeks where you play well,” Niemann said. “I haven’t played well the last few weeks so it has given me a lot of confidence for what’s to come for East Lake. I just feel good, I’m happy to be in this situation right now.
With the arrival of Hughes and Niemann, two players came out of the top 30 in the penultimate event of the season. Long went from 27th to 31st after a T-56, while Kevin Streelman fell from 28th to 32nd after finishing T-51.
There was also a drama with the 30th and final place, which went to Billy Horschel. Horschel won at East Lake in 2014, but he would have been out of the number if it hadn’t been for his partner Corey Conners’ awkwardness on the final green. Conners landed three 5-foot putts, including a 2-foot miss for bogey, to fall to a tie for 33rd place alongside Horschel. Those fractional points between the T-33 and T-34 proved to be the difference between Horschel and Long for last place, with Horschel’s total of 953 points being less than three points ahead of Long.
“You never want to see something like that happen to anyone,” Horschel said. “If it turns out that this is how I did the Tour Championship, I’ll probably give him a nice bottle of wine or a nice dinner or something like that.