Mark Hubbard dropped a knife on his foot early this week and wasn’t even sure he could play.
However, the 33-year-old Hubbard (pictured) recorded a bogey-free, 7-under-par 65 in the third round to take a one-stroke lead over Mackenzie Hughes of Canada in the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Miss.
“I had a hole in my foot this whole week, and I didn’t get to practice at all last week, so I was just kind of coming here trying to get ready for (the Shriners Children’s Open) in Las Vegas next week, to be honest,” said Hubbard, whose three pro victories came on the Korn Ferry Tour, the PGA Tour Canada and the Golden State Tour.
“I think that probably has to do with expectations being low. That being said, I felt incredible about my game for the last six, seven months, so I’m just trying to go with it and keep those expectations low and just try and hit good golf shots.”
“To have this opportunity tomorrow, it’s awesome. It feels sort of like a gift.”
Hubbard, who played college golf at San Jose State, made only one birdie through 10 holes, but then reeled off five consecutive birdies through the 15th hole and one more on a four-foot putt at No. 18 to finish 54 holes at 15-under 201.
Second-round co-leader Hughes, who lost by two strokes to Hubbard in the 2013 Wildfire Invitational on the PGA Tour Canada, sank a 29-foot birdie on the final hole to cap a 68 and get into the final twosome on Sunday.
“He got the better of me back then,” said Hughes, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2017 RSM Classic. “I’m hoping that I can get that back to even tomorrow. It’ll be a lot of fun, against someone I’m comfortable with. He’s a great guy, easy to get along with, so it’ll be a fun day. I don’t think either of us would have ill will toward the other one if he won or I won, or whatever the case may be. We’ll have a fun battle tomorrow, and whatever happens, we’ll still be friends the next day.
“It was just a matter of time, and I felt like I’ve been trending toward a week like this. It’s just being patient and waiting for it to happen. … I think you practice and play for these types of moments, and you want to be feeling those nerves, and coming down to the last few holes, being one of those guys with a chance to win.”
Left-hander Garrick Higgo of South Africa sank a four-foot birdie putt on the last hole to compete a 68 and is three shots behind in a tie for third with Scott Stallings, who birdied four straight holes on the front nine but made two late bogeys in another 68, and Sepp Straka of Austria, who had four birdies and a lone bogey in his 69.
Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA champion, made five straight birdies to start the back nine in a bogey-free 64 that was the low score of the round and is four down in a tie for sixth with Nick Hardy, who birdied three of the first three holes and the last two in a 68.
S.H. Kim of South Korea had four birdies on each nine in a 66 and is five strokes behind in a tie for eighth with Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and Dean Burmester of South Africa, who both made five birdies against a single bogey in 68s.
Defending champion Sam Burns, a week after helping the United States retain the Presidents Cup, had five birdies on the last seven holes of the front nine and is tied for 34th following a 71.
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