Corey Conners put himself in position to become the first Canadian to win the RBC Canadian Open since Pat Fletcher and then he couldn’t even talk about it.
The 31-year-old Conners posted a bogey-free, five-under par 67 to tie for the lead with Aaron Rai of England, Justin Lower and Chesson Hadley after the first round at Oakdale Golf and Country Club in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Then Conners, who lives nearby in Ontario, had to leave the course immediately after finishing his round without speaking with the media and return home to deal with an urgent personal matter.
Conners (pictured) captured his second PGA Tour victory in the Valero Texas Open in April after winning the same tournament in 2019.
“I think (Conners is) experienced enough to know that we’re so early and that it doesn’t really mean much yet,” said Canadian great Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, who lost the Canadian Open to Vijay Singh in a playoff in 2004.
“I know he just wants to, I’m sure, keep doing what he’s doing. I was watching a little on TV this morning and he looked like he was just playing Corey Conners golf. I saw solid play and nice ball striking, and that’s a good recipe around here.
“It’s pretty demanding off the tee on this course. If you miss the fairways you’re in trouble, so if he can keep driving it good, he’ll be in good shape.”
Said Danny Sahl, Conners’ caddie: “It’s the same mentality that he brought over from (Oak Hill, where Conners tied for 12th in the PGA Championship). He knows that’s what it’s going to take to play well. Just get it in the fairway and we were aggressive on a couple of holes. He’s seeing his spots and keeping it really simple.”
Rai, who has won six times as a pro but his seeking his first PGA Tour victory, made birdies on eight of the last 12 holes, while Lower sank a 16-foot birdie putt on No. 17 and an eight-footer for eagle on the last to gain his share of the lead, and Hadley had four birdies on the front nine and three on the back.
Eighth-ranked Matthew Fitzpatrick of England made a single bogey in his 68 and is in a huge tie for fifth with Jonathan Byrd, who birdied four of the last seven holes; Brice Garnett, who had five birdies on his front nine; Mark Hubbard, who made three birdies down the stretch; Ryan Gerard, who had four birdies on his back nine; Brendon Todd, who birdied three of four holes through the turn, S.H. Kim of South Korea, who had five birdies against a single bogey; Will Gordon, who birdied five of his first 11 holes, and Carl Yuan of China, who made four birdies on the front nine and three on the back.
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, the two-time defending champion, had five birdies and four bogeys in a 71 and is tied for 37th.
“At the end of the day, this is business and my job is playing golf,” said McIlroy, who has other things on his mind lately. “The more that I can focus on that and focus on the birdies and the bogeys instead of the stuff that’s happened in the board room, I’ll be much happier.”
McIlroy, who has been outspoken on the politics of golf that have been going on the last couple of years, was referring to the merger of the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and LIV Golf on Monday.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard