PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA — Sometimes all you need is a fortuitous bounce.
Corey Conners came to the Tampa Bay area on Monday attempting to qualify for the Valspar Championship and shot 1-under 71, just missing out on making it into the field. However, his rank as the third alternate quickly changed as players withdrew ahead of him, giving him an early morning tee time on Thursday.
The Canadian took advantage of the good fortune and shot 4-under 67 to take the lead. After jumping out to 5 under through 11 holes, he made six consecutive pars before closing with his lone bogey of the day.
“It was obviously a great feeling to get into the field,” Conners said. “I kind of had a mindset of trying to take advantage of sort of a good break, I guess.”
The 26-year-old has made nine of 10 cuts in his rookie season but none have resulted in top-20 finishes and he sits 131st on the FedEx Cup points list.
As he has embarked on his maiden Tour campaign, Conners has enjoyed a significant aid with the guiding hand of Mackenzie Hughes, a college teammate from Kent State University. Conners and Hughes are both products of the Canadian development team that has continued to produce players.
“They’re helping out some younger guys trying to get some more guys out on the PGA Tour,” Conners said. “That program has been amazing in the development and given me so many opportunities to train and get better.”
Another Canadian product, Adam Hadwin, captured this event last year. Conners would love to keep the red and white flag waving.
“I haven’t had the best results on the weekend so trying to learn from prior experiences and kind of get in a better rhythm and stay focused is the key,” Conners said. “I feel really good about my game was really happy to have gotten into the field here and definitely feel like I’m due for a good week.”