O Canada! ????????????@CoreConn's crazy round ends with a victory.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 7, 2019
On a wet and windy day in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio, Corey Conners at times looked as if he was blowing towards his first PGA Tour victory, but other times seemed to be spinning his wheels in the mud.
To his credit, Conners, who came through a playoff at Monday qualifying just to get into the field at the Valero Texas Open, didn’t let the roller coaster go off the track in the middle of a round that saw him par just four holes.
He also finished with 10 birdies and four bogeys to finish the day with a six-under 66. At 20 under, he was two better than veteran Charley Hoffman in recording his first PGA Tour victory that comes with plenty of benefits.
Not only does he get a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a fat winner’s cheque, but he’s off to Augusta National for this week’s Masters courtesy of the win in San Antonio.
“I got off to a great start, unfortunately gave some back, but regrouped making the turn and made a bunch on the back nine. Guess it was just meant to be. I played well, had a good mindset, stayed aggressive throughout,” said Conners.
“It doesn’t feel real,”he said.
Conners helped himself with birdies on three of his first four holes while Si Woo Kim, who came into Sunday’s round with a one-shot lead over Conners, birdied the first, but took a double bogey on the par three third hole, leaving Conners at 17 under, with a three-shot lead at that point.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 8, 2019
He added to that lead with his third consecutive birdie on the par four fifth before his first bogey of the day on six put him back to 17 under with a three-shot lead. That dropped to 16 under and a two-shot lead with another bogey on the par three seventh.
Conners’ third consecutive bogey on the par five eighth dropped him into a tie for the lead at 15 under as Hoffman birdied the same hole to go two under on the day at that point.
Another bogey on nine put Conners one shot off the lead, trailing Hoffman by one, and sent him to the back nine at even par on the day.
“There’s a bit of a distance between nine and 10, so you get a shuttle ride. During that shuttle ride, I just had to take some deep breaths and sort of regroup, just relax,” he said.
“I was disappointed but still having a lot of good shots. I knew I was capable of more good shots and I just did t stay relaxed as best I could. Despite making the bogeys, I was close to the lead and making the turn. That’s all you can really ask for,” he added.
With only one par on his scorecard at that point, Conners birdied 10 and 11 to take a one-shot lead over Hoffman and Kevin Streelman who was nine under when he birdied 17 up ahead.
The birdies kept coming just as they had earlier in the round when Conners made it three straight on 12 to take a temporary two-shot lead at 17 under, only to be narrowed to one by Hoffman with his own birdie on 12.
Conners made only his second par of the day on the par three 13th to maintain his one-shot lead over Hoffman and Ryan Moore, who moved into a tie with Conners with his fourth birdie in five holes up ahead at 16. However, Conners restored his one-shot lead with a birdie at 14.
Only his third par of the day on 15 kept Conners in the lead at 18 under, one up on Hoffman and Moore, who parred the 18th hole up ahead to finish the day at 17 under.
“That par save at 15 was probably the big moment where I thought that I could get it done. It was an important putt. I played the last three holes really well all week, so I knew if I made that one (on 15), I’d have a good chance,” said Conners.
Back on the par three 16th, Conners hit the stick, then sunk a four-footer for birdie to extend his lead to two shots at 19 under with two holes to play. after Hoffman parred 16.
Conners struck for his 10th birdie of the day on the par four 17th to move to 20 under, three clear of the rest of the field and parred the final hole to clinch his initial victory.
His appearance at this week’s Masters is his second after playing in 2015 when he missed the cut.
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