AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the list of preposterous things that have happened to Corey Conners in the last 10 days, shooting an opening-round 70 to jump on the leader board on Day 1 of the Masters doesn’t necessarily crack the top five. Which says a lot about how crazy the past 10 days have been for the 27-year-old Canadian.
Two Mondays ago, Conners survived a 6-for-1 playoff to get through the 4-spot qualifier at the PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open. From there he shot rounds of 69-67-66 TPC San Antonio to play his way into contention, followed by a roller-coaster 66 on Sunday that gave him a two-shot victory, the first of his PGA Tour career.
As a bonus, it qualified him for the Masters
That night, Valero executives flew Conners and his wife, Malory, in their corporate jet to Augusta, where he took a day to decompress before resuming practice on Tuesday.
Since Connors hadn’t packed thinking he would be heading from Texas to Georgia, he didn’t have enough clothes with him. His sponsor, Levelwear, overnighted him new threads to wear on the course, while Corey and Malory did a little shopping in Augusta on Monday to get a couple T-shirts and a pair of pants to go to dinner.
Conners, who had played in the Masters as an amateur in 2015 after coming in runner-up at the U.S. Amateur, was in the first threesome off on Thursday, and muddled through the opening 12 holes at Augusta, playing them one over par. But then began a birdie-birdie-eagle run on Nos. 13-15 that vaulted him to three under and the solo lead. A three-putt bogey on the 18th dropped him to two-under 70, one off the lead, but didn’t dampen his spirits.
“I think I’m just … everything’s still high, I’m just having a lot of positive emotions,” Conners said. “Didn’t really sleep much the beginning of the week, I felt energized with positive things that have happened, still relaxed a little bit the last few days and definitely, yeah, just trying to get back into some golf and have some fun. This is a great place to be and I'm just really enjoying it.”
Given his 8:30 a.m. start time on Thursday, Conners made sure to get out to the first tee early to watch Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial opening tee shot.
“It was pretty cool,” Conners said. “I was able to stand on the back of the tee and watch them tee off and really appreciate what they have done for the game of golf and it was a really cool experience to be part of. I just tried to soak it in and really enjoy it.”
The same can be said for his entire week in Augusta.
“Yeah, it’s been wild, definitely unexpected but I’m playing some good golf and really excited to be here and honored to be playing in the Masters and just trying to keep riding the good play. … So, yeah, for the rest of the week it’s been a bit crazy the last week but everything's been great and just trying to really enjoy the experience.”