In triumphing for a second time in San Antonio, Conners became the third Canadian to win on PGA Tour this season. Published on ScoreGolf, by Jason Logan
Corey Conners with his daughter, Reis, and wife, Mallory, following his victory. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Just as he did when he won the Valero Texas Open in 2019, Corey Conners wore white pants and a blue shirt — though a darker shade — with his customary shades and 5 o-clock shadow Sunday in capturing the tournament for a second time.
But in so many ways the two triumphs — his only two on the PGA Tour — were vastly different.
Then, Conners was a second-year big-leaguer playing with non-exempt status after a so-so freshman season. That meant he’d had to win the last tournament spot in a Monday qualifier playoff just to tee it up on Thursday, which became a central part of the story upon his sealing the deal six days later.
Then, he played a wild final round, with 10 birdies, four bogeys and four pars, adding up to a 66 that turned his wife, Malory, into a social media sensation with her many priceless reactions from the sidelines.
Then, he was a relative unknown to the golf world at large without a spot in the following week’s Masters until the final putt dropped.
Fast-forward four years and Conners is regarded as one of the tour’s best ball-strikers with three straight top 10s in the Masters on his resumé. Because of that, he’s a guy from whom golf fans have expected more, and on this day, he looked every bit the favourite at TPC San Antonio, a course that clearly fits his eye.
Starting the round a shot back of Patrick Rodgers, Conners turned the deficit into a two-shot advantage through six holes with two birdies on his card and Rodgers, winless in 10 PGA Tour seasons, finding the early going too hot to handle.
Spurred on by that early reversal, Conners was Tim Duncan-steady from that point on, hitting fairway after fairway and green after green on a lovely San Antonio afternoon. But he also failed to separate himself from the pack by missing a number of birdie opportunities. As is often the case with Conners, his putter could not complement his terrific tee-to-green play and what looked to be a foregone conclusion for much of the day turned dramatic when tour rookie Sam Stevens made an eagle at 17 and had eight feet for birdie on 18 to match Conners at 15 under. Alas, Sanders could not convert and Conners, now a father, made a nervy par at the dangerous last to preserve the victory. In the end, he submitted a clean card with four birdies and 14 pars. Far different than the one filled with circles and squares from four years ago.
“Today I was definitely more in control,” said Conners, who was embraced by Malory and their 16-month-old daughter Reis on the final green. “I feel like I made some mistakes in 2019, but I also made a lot really good shots. It was an up-and-down rollercoaster round in 2019 and today was a little more steady. That was part of my plan, to be as steady as I could, just get it in play, give myself lots of looks. So being bogey-free today was really amazing.”
To this point, Conners had not performed great this season. He had no top 10s in 10 starts and his best finish was in January at the Sony Open where he tied for 16th. In fact, he wasn’t in a playoff spot before this second Texas win with the number of post-season competitors reduced to 70 from 125. That’s in the dust now as Conners moved 64 spots up that ledger to 18th. Always a cool customer, Conners, who now has a pair of brown cowboy boots as a Valero memento to go with his black ones from 2019, had no concerns about any perceived slump.
“I haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked but I’ve had some decent weeks I’ve taken positives from,” he said. “I never was really too worried about where my game was at. I have lots of confidence and I knew I was going to have lots of opportunities upcoming.”
Speaking of which, the win couldn’t come at a better time for Conners as he now heads to another course and tournament at which he’s become very comfortable. His past three Masters results surely had him a popular wager among the betting crowd already and now he arrives on the heels of a win. He’s gone T10, T8, T6 in his last three trips down Magnolia Lane. Following that pattern would put him right in the thick of the race come next Sunday as well.
“I’ve been looking forward to getting back to Augusta for some time now. I’ve played well there the last few years and I’m really excited to get back again. I feel very positive with where my game is at,” stated Conners.
Conners is the third Canadian to win on the PGA Tour this season following his good pal Mackenzie Hughes at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October and Adam Svensson at the RSM Classic in November. It marks the first time in history that three different Canucks have won during the same PGA Tour season and Nick Taylor’s spirited run at the WM Phoenix Open almost made it four.
Of all the coming commemorations, that is perhaps the most fitting tribute to Mike Weir’s milestone Masters victory 20 years ago next week.