Very Close Call

After big rally gives Mark Hubbard a share of lead in final round, Denver native finishes a stroke out of playoff at PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship

By Gary Baines – 10/8/2023

You could understand if Denver native Mark Hubbard might have a love-hate relationship with the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.

Last year, the Colorado Academy graduate led through 54 holes at the event but a final-round 74 left him with a fifth-place finish.

And a year later, Hubbard was right in the thick of things again on Sunday. In fact, ever so briefly, he was tied for the lead after starting round 4 eight strokes out of the top spot. He was threatening to do the near-unthinkable: win on the PGA Tour after going into the last round eight back.

Alas, Hubbard bogeyed the final two holes to finish one stroke out of a five-way playoff — in a tie for sixth place. Particularly frustrating was a three-putt from 13 feet on No. 17 for a player who is considered a good putter.

“I’m obviously very annoyed and bummed about the last two holes, but also that’s as good as I’ve maybe ever played out here to get myself in a position to have those two holes,” he said. “A lot of mixed emotions. It’s going to take a couple days to kind of figure out what to take away from this week.”

Hubbard, who’s looking for his first PGA Tour victory, summed the week up this way: “ton of positives, ton of sloppy negatives.”

A stroke may not be worth sweating over if a player is finishing 40th at a given tournament, but when it ends up meaning the difference between sixth place and participating in a playoff for the title, it’s a little different matter.

As it was, Hubbard had put together a stellar rally to have a chance at the victory. After going 5 under in the course of five holes (11-15), including a 2-foot eagle on No. 14, Hubbard was 7 under for the day. And with the leaders sputtering, he went into a tie for the lead for a few seconds despite missing a 13-foot birdie try on No. 17 — as Henrik Norlander made a bogey.

But … Hubbard missed his 5-foot comebacker and carded a bogey on 17, dropping out of the top spot. On 18, he came up short of the green in regulation after a drive left him with tree issues. Then he missed his 14-foot par attempt there. 

It marked Hubbard’s first back-to-back bogeys in his last six PGA Tour rounds.

At the end of the day, the sixth-place showing — after going 67-67 on the weekend — was Hubbard’s fifth top-10 on the PGA Tour since late May and 11th all-time in 196 starts on the top circuit.

The performance lifted Hubbard to 59th in the FedExCup Fall Standings. In addition to helping his priority ranking for the 2024 season, he would qualify for two so-called “Signature Events” early in the year — the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Genesis Invitational — if he finishes 60th or better.

“I’ve never been in this position before where I’m not fighting for my job,” the 34-year-old said. “It’s going to be my eighth season out here, and every single one I’m just fighting for my kids’ college and just to be able to pay my mortgage and stuff. It’s kind of nice to be able to play some events, see how the other side lives, and just kind of go out and try and win every week rather than grinding.”

For all the scores from the Sanderson Farms Championship, CLICK HERE.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates