Canada's Hughes goes from missed cuts to last US Open duo

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Canada's Mackenzie Hughes celebrates a birdie on the 18th hole that gave him a share of the 54-hole lead on Saturday at the US Open
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Canada's Mackenzie Hughes has missed the cut in his past five events and six of eight prior major starts, but he'll be in Sunday's final pairing at the US Open.

The 30-year-old from Hamilton made a 63-foot eagle putt at the par-5 13th hole and blasted out of a bunker to set up a birdie at 18 Saturday on the way to a three-under par 68 at Torrey Pines.

That gave him a share of the 54-hole lead on five-under 208 with American Russell Henley and 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, who plays alongside Hughes in the last group Sunday.

Hughes, ranked 67th in the world, has a chance at his first major title after not reaching the weekend at a tournament for two months.

"You miss five cuts in a row and you kind of wonder when you're going to get it back on track, so I got to Saturday and felt the hard work is kind of done for me," Hughes said. "I'm going to go have some fun and play golf."

The relaxed mindset comes after having won his only US PGA Tour title at Sea Island in 2016 and confidence that he could turn around recent woes.

"It really just comes down to mental toughness," Hughes said. "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.

"It's really easy to get down and to be negative and to pout and feel bad for yourself, but I've been trying to do the hard thing, which is to be positive, glass half full, optimistic, looking for the progress.

"Win or lose tomorrow, I've been making a lot of progress, and I'm excited for the challenge."

It's a great opportunity for Hughes, who matched the week's low round with a 67 on Friday.

"I don't think I'm ever surprised when I play well," Hughes said. "I wouldn't say I necessarily expected to be in the last group this week, but I know my game is good enough to win on the PGA Tour. I've done it before.

"This is a bigger stage, but you do the same things. I just need to do a lot of the same things I did to win and I'll definitely draw on that experience."

Hughes will embrace the pressure of his position, but will make a few concessions to superstition just in case.

"I've had pizza the last two nights, so there's probably a strong chance I'll eat pizza again," he said.

"I'm not that superstitious but I'm a little superstitious."

js/gph

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