Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open
San Antonio, Texas
Winner: Corey Conners

Winning means different things to different golfers — a windfall of money, a surge of confidence, a reward for all that hard work, and the like. For Corey Conners, 27, winning the Valero Texas Open meant something truly powerful, wonderfully liberating.

“No more Monday qualifying,” said Conners, who also won $1.35 million. And he might have added, “And a berth in the Masters.” Because that’s where he was heading the very next week. This for a golfer who turned pro in 2015, who did his apprenticeship on the PGA Tour Canada, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica and the Korn Ferry Tour, and who, having earned his way onto the PGA Tour, missed five cuts in seven starts before the Texas Open.

Conners shot the TPC San Antonio in 69-67-66-66–268, 20 under, and the two-stroke win came rich with irony. He had got into the tournament the hard way, through the Monday qualifier, that grueling exercise of tension and doubt for those without an established spot on the PGA Tour. This time, six hopefuls were vying for one spot. The last qualifier to go on and win a tournament was Arjun Atwal in 2010, and the one before him was 24 years earlier.

For the first three rounds, the show belonged to Korea’s Si Woo Kim, the 2017 Players winner. In his 66-66-69, he aced the par-three 16th in the second round on two bounces, and almost aced it again in the third the same way, then missed a four-footer for birdie and parred. He led a pack of four by one in the first round, and was looking like a runaway when another 66 in the second put him four ahead of a crowd of six, including Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Conners. Then Conners closed the gap fast in the rainy third round, with four birdies on the front nine. Coming in, he had three more, and two bogeys, getting to within one of Kim going
into the last round.

“I feel like I belong,” Conners the qualifier said. “And was really excited to get into the field to start with.” Then Conners finished with an unreal flourish. In the final round, he birdied four of the first five. “And I was walking to No. 6 tee thinking, wow, this is pretty awesome,” he said, “then bogeyed the next four.” He made the turn and birdied three straight.

“At that point I thought, we’re going to do this,” Conners said. The closing stretch was a blur, he said. Actually, he birdied 14, 16 and 17. All told, down the back nine, he had a tap-in, two one-putts inside four feet, a 34-footer, a two-putt from 65, and he closed it with a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th. Then he was looking forward to two things: The Masters the next week, and Mondays on the tour. “It will be more of a travel day,” he said. “I will
not be playing in Monday qualifiers.”


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