Corey Conners of Canada is a big Texas fan.
Conners won the Valero Texas Open for the second time, his only PGA Tour victories, by shooting a bogey-free, four-under-par 68 to beat rookie Sam Stevens by one stroke on the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.
“I had been feeling really good about my game and looking forward to getting back here to San Antonio,” said Conners, who also won the Texas Open four years ago. “When I won in 2019, it was different, a real roller-coaster final round. I dug deep on the back nine, so I tried to channel that part of it today.
“I had hoped it wouldn’t take this long after getting the first win, but I’ve still been working really hard. It’s beyond my wildest dreams, really, to be a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. I know there are going to be some happy people back in Listowel (Ontario, Canada) tonight.
“It was definitely a battle out there today, but I trusted my ability and thought about a lot of good shots I had hit previously in the week with certain conditions. It was definitely tough out there, but I’m really happy and proud of the way I battled.”
After Conners putted out for the winning par on the last hole, someone in the crowd yelled: “This is home! We love you!”
The 31-year-old Conners, who is looking forward to returning to the Masters this week after finishing in the top 10 each of the last three years at Augusta National, trailed by one stroke entering the final round but took the lead with three birdies on the front nine and added another at No. 15 on his way to recording a score of 15-under 273.
Stevens, 26, who was seeking his first PGA Tour victory, made eagles on the eighth and 17th holes to get close, and added five birdies in his 66 playing a group ahead of Conners, but missed a nine-foot birdie putt on the last hole that would have forced a playoff.
“Those two holes (where he made the eagles), that’s the kind of stuff you need to have happen if you want to win,” said Stevens, tied for third last week in the Corales Puntacana Open. “I was pretty confident (Conners) he had it in the bag when I missed that putt.
“I saw he had hit in the fairway (on the last hole), so I figured he could manage making a 5. He had it in the bag when I missed that putt on 18. I knew I had to do something cool on the last couple of holes to win, and I was pretty at calm, pretty at peace on No. 17. I couldn’t believe I got it as close as I did, and was able to make that one. That gave me a chance.
“I gave it my best shot, but just came up short in the end.”
Sam Ryder rattled off five of his seven birdies on the back nine and finished two shots back in a tie for third with Matt Kuchar, 44, who birdied four of the last five holes for a 68, while Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, who led after the second and third rounds wound up solo fifth after a disappointing 73 that included four bogeys on the front nine.
Said Rodgers, looking for his first PGA Tour victory after holding the 54-hole lead for the fourth time: “Yeah, it was a disappointing day. I feel like I made some good swings that kind of the wind got or they landed a few yards in the wrong spots, and it ended up costing me bogeys. That was my day today.”
Chez Reavie eagled the eighth hole and birdied the last five to post a 65 and finished five strokes behind in a tie for sixth with Byeong Hun An of South Korea, who birdied the last two holes for a 69, and Lee Hodges, who had three birdies coming home in another 69, while Andrew Novak was one more down in solo ninth after making birdies on three of the last four holes for a 68.
Ben Martin collected eight birdies in a 67 and finished seven shots behind in a tie for 10th with Rickie Fowler, who eagled the eighth hole and added six birdies in a 66; Hayden Buckley, who birdied the first two holes and the last two in a 68; Padraig Harrington, 51, of Ireland, who had three birdies on the back nine in a 71, and Chris Kirk, who made three straight birdies on the front nine in a 72.
Defending champion J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles and San Diego State tied for 22nd after a closing 69.
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