Golf-'Goosebumps' as Canadian Hughes sees maiden major title in reach

Jun 19, 2021; San Diego, California, USA; Mackenzie Hughes bumps his caddie Jace Walker during the third round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - It was "goosebumps" for 30-year-old Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, who rocketed up the leaderboard at the U.S. Open on Saturday and will play in the final group of a major for the first time in his career.

Hughes, whose best finish in a major was 40th at the Masters this year, overcame a pair of bogeys on the front nine to card a three-under par 68, draining a long eagle putt on the par-5 13 and finishing the day with a birdie on the par-5 18 at San Diego's Torrey Pines.

He rolls into the final round in a three-way tie for first place with South African Louis Oosthuizen (70) and American Russell Henley (71), a shot at his maiden major title on the horizon, despite missing the cut at the last five tournaments he entered.

"It really just comes down to mental toughness. I really think that the hard thing to do when you're in the midst of struggling like five cuts in a row that I had missed is to stay positive in light of that," said Hughes, whose sole win on the PGA Tour was the RSM Classic in 2016.

"I've been trying to do the hard thing, which is to be positive."

He would be only the second Canadian to win a major, after Mike Weir in 2003, if he can fend off a stacked field including Rory McIlroy (67) and Bryson DeChambeau (68), who each trailed the lead by just two strokes through 54 holes.

While the pressure of the moment would be enough to weigh on any competitor, Hughes told reporters his evening plans consisted of playing with his kids and eating pizza - and reliving his stellar play.

"I'll probably watch a couple of shots I hit today and kind of relish those and enjoy those and remember those for tomorrow," he said.

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Writing by Amy Tennery; Editing by William Mallard)

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