SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – APRIL 06: Corey Conners of Canada hits his tee shot on the 13th hole during the third round of the 2019 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio Oaks Course on April 06, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
By E. Michael Johnson
Corey Conners had the ultimate up-and-down final round at the Valero Texas Open, but it was a pair of up-and-downs (followed by a timely staked 7-iron shot) that secured Conners his first PGA Tour win and provided him with the golden ticket: a last-minute invitation to the Masters.
Of course, it was fitting there was some turbulence along the way. The tournament was contested at the Westin La Cantera Resort from 1995 to 2009 and the course sat in the shadows of a large roller coaster from the nearby Six Flags amusement park. That describes Conners’ round perfectly. He birdied four of the first five holes before riding the bogey train on holes six through nine. His fortunes reversed again with three birdies to start the back nine. Then, on the par-5 14th, Conners—who was a paltry one for nine in sand saves for the week—hit a nifty bunker shot to tap-in range for a birdie to stay ahead of his pursuers, then converted another up-and-down from sand on the next hole for par, albeit courtesy of a 12-foot putt. Then on the 175-yard, par-3 16th Conners stepped up and nailed a 7-iron shot to four feet, seven inches and made the putt for another birdie to stretch the margin to two. Yet another birdie on 17—his 29th plus an eagle for the week—let him cruise to the clubhouse.
Conners’ used Ping’s Glide Forged 60-degree wedge for his key bunker shots and the 7-iron is the company’s iBlade model with Golf Pride’s New Decade Multicompound grip, an iron with an extremely thin face along with a large area from heel to toe on that thin face with an elastomer insert. The elastomer is wedged into the pocket cavity behind the face, but the material in the insert allows the face to give at impact while filtering vibrations for a softer feel. According to Ping, his irons are 1 degree upright with Project X 6.0 shafts.
For the week, Conners ranked first in greens in regulation with 52 of 72 (72.22 per cent) and first in strokes gained/approach the green, picking up more than 11 shots on the field in that stat. Conners then made the most of those opportunities by also leading the field in putts per green in regulation.
Which all added up to a lot of green—both money and Masters—that more than made up for the roller coaster ride along the way.
What Corey Conners had in the bag at the Valero Texas Open
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Driver: Ping G400 LST (UST Elements Gold 6), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Ping G400, 14.5 degrees
Hybrid: Ping G400, 19 degrees
Irons (4-PW): Ping iBlade
Wedges: Ping Ping Glide 2.0 Stealth (50, 56 degrees); Ping Glide Forged (60 degrees)
Putter: Ping PLD Anser 2