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Mackenzie Hughes moves into lead at PGA Tour’s RSM Classic

The RSM Classic - Round One
Mackenzie Hughes, shown hitting his tee shot at No. 15 on Thursday, had a bogey-free round Friday at the RSM Classic.
(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Five tournaments into his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Mackenzie Hughes has the 36-hole lead at Sea Island and expects a few nerves. 

That weekend he spent with Phil Mickelson should at least help. 

Hughes had another bogey-free round Friday and took care of the par-five holes on the Plantation Course for a five-under-par 67, giving him a two-shot lead over C.T. Pan going into the weekend of the RSM Classic, the final PGA Tour event of the year. Hughes at was at 14-under 128. 

Pan also is a rookie, and perhaps they can take inspiration from rookie Cody Gribble winning in Mississippi three weeks ago. Hughes and Pan both spent last year on the Web.com Tour to earn their cards. 

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Hughes started his rookie season in the Safeway Open, made the cut and wound up in the same group with Mickelson, who attracted the largest gallery. 

There wasn’t much of a gallery at Sea Island on another pristine day for scoring, so ideal that the cut came at five-under par. That probably won’t change for the weekend, especially with tournament host Davis Love III and Sea Island neighbors Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar among those missing the cut. It was the lowest cut on the PGA Tour since five under at the 2015 Zurich Classic. 

Hughes opened with a nine-under 61 on the Seaside course at Sea Island, while he didn’t hit the ball as cleanly over at Plantation, he had few complaints. He picked up three of his birdies at the par-five holes, even on the 18th when he found a fairway bunker off the tee and had to lay up. 

Hughes and Pan, who shot a 64 at Seaside, played together on the Canadian Tour two years ago, and then all last year on the Web.com Tour. Pan had a brief stay atop the world amateur ranking in 2013 when he won eight times at Washington, and he made the cut as an amateur at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. 

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They will be joined in the final group by Hudson Swafford, who lives at Sea Island and shot a 67 on the Plantation. Swafford was three shots behind with Chad Campbell, Chesson Hadley and Blayne Barber. 

Ko sets course record at LPGA event

 Lydia Ko shot a tournament-record 10-under 62 to take a three-stroke lead in the CME Group Tour Championship, putting the top-ranked New Zealander in position to win the player of the year award with a victory Sunday. 

The 2014 winner at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla., Ko birdied four of the first six holes and had seven birdies and a bogey on the back nine to get to 12-under 132 in the season finale. Ryann O’Toole (67) and So Yeon Ryu (68) were tied for second, and Sei Young Kim (68) and Beatriz Recari (68) followed at eight under. 

“Going into today definitely my goal wasn’t the 62,” said Ko. “The first three holes made great Ko needs a victory to top Ariya Jutanugarn in the player of the year race, and also would take the season points title and $1-million bonus with a win. The points in the CME Globe standings were reset for the finale, so Ko, Jutanugarn and Brooke Henderson all control their destinies. 

Ko is fighting Jutanugarn for the money title and In Gee Chun for the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. Jutanugarn, the tour victory leader with five, was tied for 19th at four under after a 68. Chun (69) was tied for sixth at seven under, and Henderson (72) was tied for 38th at even par. 

The 62 matched Ko’s lowest score of the season, shot in the second round of her Walmart NW Arkansas victory in June. She has four victories this year. 

First-round leader Shanshan Feng followed her opening 66 with a 73 to drop into a tie for 16th at five under. The Chinese star is coming off consecutive victories in Malaysia and Japan. 

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Garcia, Molinari share lead in Dubai

Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Italy’s Francesco Molinari shared the lead in the European Tour’s season-ending World Tour Championship. 

They each shot five-under 67 to reach nine-under 135 at Jumeirah’s Earth Course in Dubai. First-round leader Lee Westwood of England was a stroke back after a 70. 

Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson stayed in touch with his rivals for the season points title. The Swede shot a 69 to reach three under, the same as No. 2 Danny Willett (70), and one behind compatriot Alex Noren (69). Rory McIlroy was at one under after a 68. 

Nitties’ 65 good for Australian Open lead

Australia’s James Nitties played his final nine holes in 29 for a seven-under 65 and a one-stroke lead in the Australian Open in Sydney. Nitties, ranked 732nd in the world, had a nine-under 135 total at Royal Sydney. 

New Zealand’s Ryan Fox was second after his second 68 Australia’s Rhein Gibson (66) was at seven under, and Australian star Adam Scott (65) topped the group at six under. 

American Jordan Spieth was tied for ninth at five under after a 70. 

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