Canadian Conners Gets His First PGA Tour Win, and So Much More
The Valero Texas Open was held this week at the TPC Course in San Antonio. I was afraid for a few minutes that I wouldn’t get to see the entire fourth round, but the interruption I expected was able to wait for a little while. That was a good thing. There were so many interesting twists, turns, and objects of interest in that tournament, I can’t think of another to match it on the recent tour. I say that, not only because it remained a cliffhanger nearly to the end. Even the people who didn’t win were so interesting. Incidentally, someone did win, Corey Conners, a Canadian grabbing his first PGA trophy. He’s won a bunch of things as an amateur, but nothing yet on the big stage. The importance of his victory in San Antonio didn’t emphasize all the goodies that go along with it, but Conners will see the fruit of it very soon, on the first tee of the Masters in Augusta.
The odd thing about the Valero Open is that Corey Connors wasn’t invited to play in it. He had to show up and qualify on Monday in order to win it the following Sunday. Not very many people pull that off. They say he has been in a slump. Well, last week was the perfect time to snap out of it, and what a snap. When I watch various golf swings, I’m always aware of Sam Snead’s distinction between “ball strokers” and “ball strikers.” Snead would have loved this tournament. Conners possesses one of the most eloquent swings I have ever seen – super relaxed, super efficient, super graceful. I couldn’t get enough of it, and will certainly drive myself crazy on the next trip to the range trying to duplicate it.
It was a day of great putting, mostly great bunker shots, and drives that were long enough, but more strategic and surgical. Green approaches offered a cavalcade of backspin artistry. Charley Hoffman put in his bid to take over, as did Ryan Moore and Players Championship Si Woo Kim. Conner ended up at minus 20 with two consecutive 66s, and no one caught him. Pars were a rarity, as he birdied 10 holes, including the first four. The four consecutive bogeys in the middle presented a nail-biter of psychology. Was he snake-bitten, or could he pull out of it? A few birdies later, and I was convinced that he was back.
Just as Kim had faded back a bit, there he was on 18, still thinking like a gamer. How he landed that ball on top of a flat rock on the bank of the creek is anyone’s guess. The caddie, with daydreams of of Jean van de Weld running through his head, wildly cautioned Kim, “don’t look at that flag,” and other tasty tidbits of “Why don’t you do something else?” The shot was improbably excellent, reaching the green. Thanks to Kim for that quality entertainment.
Let’s see, what else did Conners qualify for? The answer is “a whole bunch of things,” even more than just the Masters. The entertainment value just kept rising as we realized that Conners still
‘qualifies’ as a newly wed. While Corey was playing chess with his nerves, Malory Conners was on a roller coaster ride of wonderful agony, reacting to every moment on the course, as her Canadian friends seconded the effort. I always feel good for someone who has a person who cares that much. However, if Corey is leading the Masters on Sunday, Malory’s going to need a complete medical unit right there off the fairway.
Genius shots, chip-ins, aces, back-spin masters, water wizardry, gorgeous swings and true love. Yes, we got all of that in one final round of a tournament in Texas without buying a movie ticket. Who knows what might happen in the state of Georgia?