Rory McIlroy could not have scripted a better start to his latest PGA Tour season.

The Northern Irishman, making his 2022-23 debut at the CJ Cup in South Carolina, carded four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to claim his third win of the calendar year. The victory moved him back to number one in the world for the ninth time in his career, but the first time since July 2020.

"I've worked so hard over the last 12 months to get myself back to this place," he said afterward. "I feel like I'm enjoying the game as much as I ever have. I absolutely love the game of golf and I think that when I go out there and I play with that joy, it's definitely showed over these last 12 months. Yeah, it feels awesome."

The 33-year-old, who captured the Tour Championship in August, became the first FedExCup champion to open his season with a win since Tiger Woods did it at the 2007 Buick Invitational. He also became the fifth player since 1983 to successfully defend a title on a different course and joined Woods as the only player in Tour history to do it multiple times (McIlroy won the 2019 and 2022 RBC Canadian Opens at two different locations, while the CJ Cup moved this year to Congaree Golf Club from The Summit Club in Las Vegas).

As always, McIlroy used his prodigious skill set with the driver to power his way to victory. He averaged 323 yards off the tee at Congaree, marking the fourth-longest average by a winner in the ShotLink era. It was the 31st time of McIlroy's storied career where he has led the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, the most of any player since 2020.

Tom Kim chugs along

Tom Kim shocked the golf world when he burst on the scene at the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship in August, when the youthful Korean came out of nowhere to shoot a final-round 61 and claim the regular-season finale.

The Korean would not be surprising anyone this year, though, especially after his breakout performance at the Presidents Cup. And yet there he was just a few weeks later, surprising everyone once again as he held up another trophy, this time at the Shriners Children's Open.

At 20 years, three months and 18 days old, Kim became the second-youngest player to win two PGA Tour events on the all-time list, behind only Ralph Guldahl, who won his second event in 1932 at 20 years, two months and 10 days.

Now trailing Kim on that list as a who's who of world-class players and Hall of Famers – Gene Sarazen, Horton Smith, Tom Creavy, John McDermott and some guy named Tiger Woods (he won his second event at 20 years, nine months and 20 days).

"Golf on the PGA Tour is really hard. It's really hard to win tournaments," said Kim, who also became the fastest Korean to multiple wins, taking just 18 starts. "You can't expect everything in life. I've just got to keep working hard on my game. I'm very fortunate to win twice on Tour and to be even out here. I think the mindset is for me I've just got to keep working hard and be grateful for what things come along."

Kim certainly makes the game look easy, despite what he may suggest. He became the first player since J.T. Poston in 2019 to go bogey-free in a tournament and win and was only the third to do it all-time (Lee Trevino first accomplished the feat in 1974). He hit 87.5 percent of his greens in regulation – the best mark by a Shriners winner since 2008 – and was a perfect 100 per cent in scrambling for the week.

Canadian Hughes nabs second win

But Kim was not the only player in October to card the second win of his PGA Tour career, as Canadian Mackenzie Hughes survived in the first play-off of the season to win the Sanderson Farms Championship.

The 31-year-old poured in an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to outlast Sepp Straka, notching his first victory since winning the RSM Classic six years ago. As the sun set over Mississippi, Hughes had to convert six critical putts over his final seven holes – four of them for par – before ultimately outlasting Straka.

"I kept telling myself the whole week that I was going to do it. That was the only thing I saw in my mind," Hughes said. "Those par saves down the stretch, I was just trying to will the ball into the hole."

It seemed to work. Hughes finished with a 91.67 scrambling percentage, the highest mark of his career and best since winning the aforementioned RSM Classic, where he finished with an 85 scrambling percentage (that was good for second at that event). His +2.31 average in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green was also the second-best average of his career, behind last year's RSM Classic, where he finished second after carding a +3.14 average.

"The second [win] felt harder because I've had to wait a lot longer for it," he said. "The first one came in my fifth tournament as a PGA Tour member. I felt like, 'Oh, man, this is going to be easy, I'm going to be able to rack up a few of these,' and it's been six years since I did that.

"It's been unbelievable. I didn't need the validation, but it's nice to be a two-time winner instead of a one-time winner and help to add to that tally."

Mackenzie Hughes held his nerve in a playoff against Sepp Straka to secure the Sanderson Farms Championship with a score of 17 under.

It is the second PGA Tour win of the 31-year-old Canadian's career, with nearly six years passed since his first win back at the RSM Classic in 2016.

This win was all the more unlikely after shooting a 71 on Thursday, but he followed it with a 63 on Friday for the lowest round of the week, before finishing with 68 and 69 on the weekend.

He had to fend off the challenge of Straka to get it done, who was the only player this week to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.

Straka rose to a share of the lead after four birdies over the space of five holes on his front-nine, and another pair of back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th to tie things up for the last few holes.

Hughes had a makeable birdie putt on the 17th to take the lead, but he narrowly missed it, before hooking his drive on the 18th into a position where salvaging a par was the best-case scenario.

From deep in the rough, he sent his second shot on the par-four over the back of the green, requiring an up-and-down to force a playoff. His long putt from off the green was excellent, leaving him a four-footer for par and he made no mistake.

Hughes again failed to make the green in regulation as they replayed the 18th, but he again saved par as Straka missed a 10-footer for birdie. On the second playoff hole, replaying the 18th one more time, Hughes figured it out, landing his approach within 10 feet and converting the birdie for the win.

Speaking to NBC in the moments after his win, he called being greeted by his wife and young son to celebrate a victory "something I've dreamed about since I had my first boy".

"I kept telling myself the whole week that I was going to do it, and that was the only thing I saw in my mind," he said. "Those par-saves down the stretch… I'd say that kind of describes my game a bit, that grit and perseverance."

There was strong South African representation at the top of the leaderboard, with Garrick Higgo alone in third at 16 under while Dean Burmester took sole possession of fourth at 15 under.

Argentina's Emiliano Grillo was joined by Americans Nick Hardy, Keegan Bradley and Mark Hubbard in a tie for fifth at 13 under, and defending champion Sam Burns finished nine shots off the pace at eight under in a tie for 30th.

Mark Hubbard has been consistent throughout at the Country Club of Jackson but he pulled out his best round yet to claim a one-stroke lead from Mackenzie Hughes at the Sanderson Farms Championship on Saturday.

Hubbard holed six birdies on the back nine, including five in a row, as he carded a seven-under 65, the second-best round of the day, to move into the lead at 15 under.

The 33-year-old American joined Hughes and Scott Stallings in the co-lead after a classy chip and putt on the par-four 15th hole for birdie, before an excellent 203-yard approach set him up for birdie on the 18th.

Hubbard, who carded rounds of 67 and 69 on the opening two days respectively, holds a one-shot lead from joint day two leader Hughes who shot at four-under 68 on Saturday.

Hughes also enjoyed the back nine with four birdies, including holing a 29-foot putt on the 18th after a bogey on the 17th to stay in touch with Hubbard.

The pair are well placed to contend for the title, with the next best being three players at 12 under after three rounds, in Garrick Higgo, Stallings and Sep Straka.

Stallings was firmly in contention before two bogeys on his final three holes blemished his day, having been bogey-free with six birdies to that point.

Keegan Bradley, who shot the best round of the day with an eight-under 64, and Nick Hardy are tied at 11 under, with Emiliano Grillo, Dean Burmester and Kim Seong-hyeon one further stroke behind.

Belgian Thomas Detry, who had shared the lead with Hughes after 36 holes, endured a tough day that included three bogeys to slip seven strokes behind the leader.

Davis Riley is looming at nine-under overall, while pre-tournament favourites Andrew Putnam and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are eight under after both carded rounds of 69, with reigning champion Sam Burns battling to make a charge, back at six under.

Mackenzie Hughes and Thomas Detry share the lead through two rounds at the Sanderson Farm Championships, making their way to 10 under in two very different ways.

Canada's Hughes got off to a disappointing start when he opened his tournament with a one-under 71 on Thursday, but followed it up with Friday's round of the day, shooting a nine-under 63 on his second trip around The Country Club of Jackson.

He birdied his first three holes of the day on his way to a bogey-free round, finishing up with birdies on 15, 17 and 18.

Meanwhile, while Hughes has been up and down, Belgium's Detry has been remarkably consistent through 36 holes, posting back-to-back 67s.

Detry was even par through his first five holes on Friday before rattling off five birdies from his next seven.

Alone in third place at nine under is Sepp Straka, who took advantage of a hot run where he birdied five out of six holes to follow up his opening 69 with a strong 66.

Scott Stallings, Garrick Higgo and Mark Hubbard are tied for fourth at eight under, with Davis Riley, Nick Hardy and Stephan Jaeger rounding out the top-10 in a tie for seventh at seven under.

The only two players to shoot better than 66 in their second round were Hughes, and Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who posted a six-under 65 to salvage a one-over Thursday and jump up to a tie for 10th heading into the weekend.

Fresh off his debut Presidents Cup appearance, defending champion Sam Burns is five strokes off the pace at five under.

Talor Gooch enjoyed a memorable day after winning the RSM Classic for his first PGA Tour title.

It was a "dream come true" for American Gooch, who closed with a six-under-par 64 to seal a three-shot victory in Georgia on Sunday.

Gooch earned his maiden PGA Tour trophy in his 104th start – the 30-year-old becoming the second first-time winner on tour this season, joining Lucas Herbert (Bermuda Championship).

A one-time winner on the Web.com Tour in 2017, Gooch tied the RSM Classic 72-hole scoring record of 22 under (Kevin Kisner 2015) after ending the final round bogey free at Sea Island Golf Club.

"To finish the fall season off like I just did, it's a dream come true," said Gooch, who finished the tournament on a streak of 26 consecutive holes without a bogey.

"This gets me into some tournaments I wasn't into. But I want to get to the TOUR Championship and this puts me a little bit ahead of the ballgame for that journey. The goal is to win the TOUR Championship."

Canada's Mackenzie Hughes finished runner-up to Gooch following his eight-under-par 62, while Colombian Sebastian Munoz (65) was a stroke further back at 18 under.

Tyler McCumber (60), Cameron Smith (64), Tom Hoge (67) and Seamus Power (68) shared fourth position, seven shots behind Gooch.

Louis Oosthuizen opened up a one-shot lead in a gripping final round at the U.S. Open.

Oosthuizen was in a three-way share of the lead heading into Sunday at Torrey Pines but was initially circumspect, going one over through eight.

That put the 2010 Open winner a shot behind defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, who came agonisingly close to a sensational hole-in-one at the par-three eighth.

That birdie result was enough for the outright lead on five under at the turn, although the American's first bogey of the weekend on 11 came as Oosthuizen's putter heated up, picking up shots on nine and 10. Oosthuizen dropped one at 11 though.

DeChambeau erred again, meaning Jon Rahm – who flew out of the blocks with back-to-back birdies – was the nearest challenger to Oosthuizen alongside another overnight leader Mackenzie Hughes on four under.

Rory McIlroy drained a 35-footer on the fourth, leaving him well-placed early on minus four.

However, the Northern Irishman passed up three further birdie opportunities by the midway point of his round and his hopes were fading when he bogeyed the 11th.

That left McIlroy level on three under with Brooks Koepka, although the American four-time major winner was through 16 holes and appeared to have missed his moment to make a decisive move.

The 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa was one of the pack on four under until he went through the green on 13 and left with a double bogey.

Louis Henley was alongside Oosthuizen and Hughes in the clubhouse on Saturday but also dropped back to minus two, albeit in less spectacular fashion than Morikawa.

Louis Oosthuizen and Mackenzie Hughes used eagles on the back nine to surge into a share of the lead heading into the final round of the U.S. Open. 

They join Russell Henley atop a crowded leaderboard at Torrey Pines after the second-round co-leader saved par on 18 to complete an up-and-down round and sit at five under par for the tournament. 

Oosthuizen finished with a flourish, draining a downhill putt for eagle on 18 to cap his one-under 70 as he continues the quest for his second major title 11 years after winning the Open Championship. 

The unheralded Hughes, meanwhile, eagled the 13th and birdied the last for a 68 on the day. He is the first Canadian to hold at least a share of the lead after 54 holes of a major since Mike Weir at the 1999 US PGA Championship. 

The 30-year-old missed the cut in his last five PGA Tour starts and has only one career victory, in the 2016 RSM Classic at Sea Island. 

Impressive as Hughes was, the round of the day belonged to Rory McIlroy (67), who also birdied the 18th to reach three under for the tournament exactly 11 years after he closed out his runaway U.S. Open win at Congressional. 

Bryson DeChambeau (68) also lurks two back of the leaders after a bogey-free third round. 

Jon Rahm (72) is among the group at two under as he seeks his first major title, along with 2020 U.S. Open runner-up Matthew Wolff (73) and Scottie Scheffler (70).

The 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson (68) is four back of the lead at one under along with 2020 US PGA champion Collin Morikawa (70), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (70), Xander Schauffele (72) and Kevin Streelman (72). 

Among other notables, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas are at even par after shooting 71 Saturday, while Jordan Spieth (68), Martin Kaymer (69), Lee Westwood (71) sit one over. 

Richard Bland, who shared the lead with Henley after the second round, plummeted down the leaderboard to one over with a brutal round of 77 punctuated by the 48-year-old putting his approach shot in the water on 18. 

 

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