Corey Conners Wins Valero Texas Open In Spectacular Fashion – Earns Way Into The Masters

With limited status for much of the PGA TOUR season, Corey Conners has had to resort to playing in Monday qualifiers to help fill out his tournament schedule.

He and Monday qualifiers broke up on Sunday. And it was HIS fault.

The 27-year-old from Listowel, Ontario blazed the TPC San Antonio Oaks course to become just the 15th Canadian to win on the PGA TOUR. Unbelievably the Valero Texas Open becomes his first pro win, ever.

The victory also solved the limited schedule problem for the former Kent State standout. He’s now exempt on the PGA through 2021 AND he gets to play in next week’s Masters. He earned the very last spot in the field.

Did we mention he also picked up $1.35 million? That will buy 900,000 Pimento Cheese sandwiches on the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club, by the way.

The last time Conners earned a pass to The Masters he did so as an amateur. The 2014 U.S. Amateur runner-up missed the cut at the 2015 Masters but vowed to return.

He can take a drive down Magnolia Lane in Monday courtesy of an unbelievable six days of play in Texas.

To start this past week the Kent State graduate fought his way through a 6-for-1 playoff to earn the very last of four spots in the tournament proper.

He followed that by posting scores of 69, 67, and 66 to head into the final round one shot back of the overnight leader, Si Woo Kim.

Roller Coaster Round

All week Conners had started his rounds at a furious pace, and Sunday was no exception. Making birdies on four of the first five holes pushed the Listowel Golf Club member into what looked like a comfortable lead. That was until he made four bogies on holes six through nine. He trailed by a stroke at the turn.

Showing little concern he went back to his previous form and rattled off one birdie after another, six within holes 10 through 17 put him three shots clear of the field as he played the final stanza. One par later, he was a PGA TOUR winner after an emotion-testing round of 66 infused by ten birdies.

“I will not be playing in Monday qualifiers, which is pretty awesome,” Conners mentioned pointedly during his winner’s press conference about his future starts to each week.

“It feels amazing,” shared the latest TOUR winner and former Team Canada and Team Ontario member. “I’ve been close over the last year and a little bit, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot in those situations and that really helped me today. I couldn’t be more excited to get over the edge and get the job done. There are so many perks that come with it and I felt like I handled myself really well out there, stayed relaxed and stuck to the process. (I) look forward to doing this a few more times.”

On To Augusta

Conners will have little time to enjoy the fruits of his week in San Antonio. He and his wife Malory, who the television cameras watched closely for her demonstrative reactions on Sunday, have a slightly altered itinerary. Instead of a commercial flight home to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida they are jumping on the Valero private jet to Augusta, Georgia for his second shot at the storied layout.

He’s eager for the opportunity but has no desire to have a ceremonial stay in Georgia where he will join 2003 Champion Mike Weir as the only Canadians playing.

“I know the course really well; I played a lot of rounds preparing for that event (2015). I haven’t really thought too much about it (in the 45 minutes between winning and his press conference) but I’m excited to get back there. I think it’s a place I can play pretty well. I’m pretty comfortable turning the ball right to left, and that’s, I think, pretty important out there – the pre-dominant shot shape that you need.”

Asked about the turnaround from Monday qualifier to TOUR winner and Masters participant, Corey was blunt. “It’s a big change of plans.”

That said, the possibility did cross his mind Sunday before he started play. His wife received an email to check in for their flight home on Monday but Corey gave her the wave off. “Ahhh, don’t check in for that quite yet,” he says he told her. “I’ve got different plans.”

He sure did.

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– Scott MacLeod, Associate Publisher, Flagstick.com 

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