The Masters has a history dating all the way back to 1934, but in those more than 80 editions at Augusta, only one Canadian native has won: Mike Weir back in 2003, now 16 years ago.
Due to the actions of one Corey Conners in San Antonio this weekend, that number has a better chance of reaching two.
Coming off a brutal six-start stretch where he had five missed cuts and a T41, the 27-year-old from Ontario put on an impressive display of resilience on Sunday at the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio, jumping off to a large early lead, losing it, and then regaining it to pull off his first career victory, a two-shot win over 2016 Valero Texas Open Champion Charley Hoffman.
Conners shot a 6-under 66 on Sunday to reach 20-under for the week, the lowest winning score since the event moved to the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in 2010, but his scorecard was nowhere near as pristine as one would expect after such a low score.
Starting the final round in second place, one stroke behind former PLAYERS Champion Si Woo Kim, Conners jumped out to a commanding lead, carding birdies on four of his first five holes to capture an early four-stroke lead. However, he finished his front nine about as poorly as a professional can: bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey to lose his lead entirely.
Conners, however, re-grouped and put together a blistering back nine. He birdied 10, 11, and 12, and after adding two additional birdies on Nos. 14 and 16, he jumped back out in front of a red-hot Ryan Moore, and the rest of the field for good. He birdied No. 17 to make it six back-nine holes under par, and then added a steady par on the 18th hole, knocking in a 4-footer to clinch his first career victory on any tour.
Making his feat even more impressive, Conners made the Valero Texas Open field as a Monday qualifier. This was the first time since 2010 that a Monday qualifier won any PGA Tour event.
He will not have next week off, as he was expecting to, but Conners seems OK with it.
FINAL TOP-10 FINISHERS
Pos-Player-Score (Final Rd)
1. Corey Conners -20 (-6)
2. Charley Hoffman -18 (-5)
2. Ryan Moore -17 (-8)
4. Brian Stuard -15 (-6)
4. Si Woo Kim -15 (E)
6. Kevin Streelman -14 (-8)
6. Graeme McDowell -12 (-6)
6. Byeong Hun An -12 (-6)
9. Jason Kokrak -12 (-4)
9. Danny Lee -12 (-2)
9. Adam Schenk -12 (-2)
9. Matt Kuchar -12 (-3)
9. Scott Brown -12 (-1)
Joel Cook’s Full Recap of the Valero Texas Open is powered by Taylormade Golf Store at Amazon.
14. Lucas Glover -11
17. Rickie Fowler -10
23. Jim Furyk -8
30. Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Jhonattan Vegas -7
42. Abraham Ancer, Martin Kaymer -5
52. Haotong Li -4
57. Ernie Els -3
61. Tony Finau -2
HOW COREY CONNERS WON THE VALERO TEXAS OPEN
In his second full-time PGA Tour season, Conners has been very hit-or-miss. He has been terrible since mid-January, and came into the week having made just four cuts in his 12 starts on the 2019 season, but two of those made cuts were top-3s (runner-up at Sanderson Farms Championship and T3 at Sony Open). Those few excellent results kept him in a solid position in the FedExCup Standings, but he no doubt wanted more.
Despite that poor form coming in, Conners was tremendous all four days at TPC San Antonio, opening with a 3-under 69, and then a 5-under 67 before his back-to-back 66s on the weekend. He carded 10 birdies in his roller-coaster final round, and bouncing back after those four consecutive bogeys is something he should be able to pull from in difficult times in the future.
Conners’ 29 birdies led the field for the week, with a lot of those as a result of a phenomenal iron game. He led the field in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and greens in regulation, while ranking second in strokes gained: tee-to-green. After losing strokes to the field on the greens in each of his first three rounds, Conners was much, much better on Sunday, gaining more than three strokes to the field with his putter.
CONNER’S FINAL STATS
Driving: 301.9 yards (28th)
Fairways: 37/56, 64.3% (10th)
Greens: 59/72, 81.9% (1st)
Putts: 1.525 (1st)
Scoring: 1 Eagle, 29 Birdies, 32 Pars, 9 Bogeys, 1 Double
WHAT IT MEANS FOR CONNERS
When Conners tees it up at Augusta next week, he will be doing so for just the second time in his career and his first as a professional; he qualified as an amateur in 2015, but missed the cut. This will be his second professional start in a major championship, and his first since missing the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open.
In addition to locking up his PGA Tour card for the next two-plus years, Conners jumped up to 13th in the current FedExCup Standings. He also saw a precipitous rise in his world ranking, rocketing from 196th to a career high 84th, making it the first time in his career that he is inside the world’s top 100, placing him ahead of some big names such as two-time major champion Zach Johnson.
CONNER’S 2019 PGA TOUR SEASON
Cuts Made: 5
Wins: 1 (Valero Texas Open)
Additional Top 10s: 2
Money: $2,228,813 (15th)
Points: 846 (13th)
World Rank Before/After: 196th/84th
“No more Monday qualifying. That’s the best deal from this. Amazing. It’s a dream come true. I won’t be as stressful on Mondays.”
– Corey Conners, Valero Texas Open Champion
OTHER SUNDAY STARS
Conners shone brightest on Sunday, not just because of his final number, but because of the way he did it, but he was not the only player extremely encouraged by his Sunday performance.
Ryan Moore has played poorly since a T2 at the season-opening Safeway Open, but a bogey-free 8-under 64, placed him third in a tournament he has often played well at. Moore even held the co-lead after a birdie on the 16th hole, but he was not able to quite keep up with Conners at the end, and finished in solo-third place.
Moore led the field for the week in driving accuracy, a big part of the reason he bogeyed just four holes for the entire week.
After birdies on 14, 15, 16, and 17 Kevin Streelman stood on the par-5 18th tee needing one birdie for the course record. He bogeyed, but his 8-under 64 still tied Moore for the lowest score of the week. Streelman finished in sixth place, his best result of the season.
Former U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell finally snapped a long winless streak when he landed in the winner’s circle at last week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, but after a 6-under 66 on Sunday to finish T7 at TPC San Antonio, the 39-year-old from Northern Ireland showed that win, which occurred at an opposite-field event, was no fluke.
McDowell rose 17 spots up the Sunday leaderboard largely off the strength of his putter, as he gained nearly four strokes to the field on the Sunday greens. He also led the field in scrambling.
In his quest for his third career PGA Tour victory, 54-hole leader Si Woo Kim started his Sunday well by birding his first hole, but the rest of his day was mostly a struggle.
A double-bogey on the par-3 third hole knocked him from atop the leaderboard, and he failed to play a single hole under par until a birdie at the 14th. Kim did manage to birdie three of his last five holes, but by then, he was long out of the tournament picture. An even-par 72 dropped the South Korean into a share of fourth place.
Jordan Spieth has been in the midst of the worst (by far) stretch of play in his career. He was hoping that a good week in San Antonio could give him some positive momentum heading into The Masters next week, an event he already has a win, two runner-ups, and a third place at in just five starts.
Spieth got his week off to an excellent start with back-to-back 68s, but a Saturday 73 knocked him off the pace, and he was just marginally better on Sunday, posting an even-par 72 to drop him to T30 on the final leaderboard.
Spieth’s iron game was a nightmare on Sunday, as he hit just seven greens in regulation and lost nearly three strokes to the field on approaches. Sadly, that T30 is actually his best result of the season in a stroke-play event.
One of the biggest drops down the Sunday leaderboard came from the long-hitting Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas, who started the day in fourth place, but after a 4-over 76 that included just one birdie, Vegas finished the tournament tied with Spieth in a share of 30th.
Vegas lost nearly six strokes to the field on Sunday tee-to-green.
– 2019 Valero Texas Open Primer
– Valero Texas Open Power Rankings
– Valero Texas Open Featured Pairings, Tee Times
– Si Woo Kim Leads After Day One
– Watch: Spieth Hole Out for Eagle
– Kim Extends Lead at Halftime in Texas
– Watch: Si Woo Kim’s Hole-in-One
– Watch: Rickie Fowler Drive the Green
– Si Woo Kim Maintains Lead at Valero Texas Open
– Jordan Spieth’s Rollercoaster Third Round
FINAL-ROUND VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
Credit: PGA TOUR Media
3 QUESTIONS FOR COREY CONNERS
1. “FOOT TO THE PEDAL”
2. “IS THIS REAL?”
3. “90 TEXTS”
WITB: COREY CONNERS
The 27-year old Canadian won his maiden tour title playing a full bag of PING clubs along with a Titleist Pro V1 golf ball.
FINAL SCORES, MONEY & POINTS: VALERO TEXAS OPEN
TPC San Antonio – Oaks Course | San Antonio, TX | Apr 4-7, 2019