Conners Wins in Texas, Lands in Masters

When Corey Conners took the lead in the final round of the 89th Valero Texas Open, he suddenly played like a guy who had never won a pro tournament, but only for four holes.

The 27-year-old Canadian made four straight bogeys to finish the front nine, but then went on a birdie run that carried him to a 6-under par 66 and a two-stroke victory over Charley Hoffman on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio

“Yeah, definitely a dream come true, still can’t believe it,” said Conners, who became the first Monday qualifier to win a PGA Tour since Arjun Atwal of India captured the 2010 Wyndham Championship, winning for the first time in his 52nd start on the PGA Tour to earn a spot in the Masters this week. “I don’t know what to say. It was an amazing day. Yeah, I’m so excited.

“I got off to a great start and made it difficult on myself on the end of the front nine, got out of position a few holes and made some bogeys. I was able to regroup going to the back nine and just tried to stay aggressive and put together a bunch of birdies. Yeah, four pars, probably my lowest par total ever. I’m usually pretty good at making pars. Yeah, it’s a crazy round. Glad I was hitting it well to make so many birdies.

“ … This is a dream come true and really happy with how I did today and glad we got it done.”

Last Monday, he survived a six-man playoff for the last spot in the Texas Open field.

Conners, who took the lead with birdies on four of the first five holes of the final round before stumbling, regained his touch with birdies on six of the first eight holes of the back nine to post a score of 20-under 268.

Although he missed the cut in eight of his first 12 events on the PGA Tour this season, Conners also showed promise by finishing second in the Sanderson Farms Championship and tying for third at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Hoffman, the 2016 Texas Open champion from Poway near San Diego, was seeking his fifth PGA Tour victory and closed with bogey-free 67, but missed a four-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole that would have put a little pressure on Conners before finishing with a birdie.

Ryan Moore sank a 30-foot eagle putt on the second hole to kick-start a 64 that equaled the low score of the day and finished three shots back in solo third, while Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds, shot 72 and was one more back in a tie for fourth with Kevin Streelman, who equaled Moore’s 64.

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who won the Corales Puntacana Championship last week, posted a 66 to wind up eight down in a tie for seventh with Matt Kuchar (69), Byeong Hun An (66) of South Korea, Adam Schenk (70), Jason Kokrak (68), Danny Lee (70) of New Zealand and Scott Brown (71).

Eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler of Murrieta tied for 17th after a 69 and Jordan Speith’s struggles continued after a promising start of 68-68, and he shot 72 to tie for 30th.

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