PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Corey Conners’ unexpected bid to keep the Valspar Championship trophy north of the border finally fell apart during the final round at Innisbrook Resort.
One year after Adam Hadwin earned his breakthrough PGA Tour victory on the Copperhead Course, Conners surprised many by grabbing the opening-round lead. He turned even more heads when he maintained that advantage after both the second and third rounds, closing in on his first career win.
But Conners finally ran out of steam Sunday, shooting a 6-over 77 to fall all the way into a tie for 16th place, seven shots behind eventual winner Paul Casey.
“A great experience. Nice to get myself in the mix,” Conners said. “Played some really good golf. Little disappointed with the outcome today, but tried to battle hard out there and just wasn’t meant to be.”
Conners kept his composure while shooting a third-round 68 from the final pairing, but he admitted his nerves were a bigger factor than he expected Sunday as he tried to keep Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, among others, at bay. Those jitters were evident from his opening tee shot, as Conners made bogey on the second-easiest hole on the course to start his round.
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“Didn’t get the putts to fall. I felt like I hit some pretty good shots,” Conners said. “Came up short on a number of putts, couldn’t get the speed down. Few of those would have fallen, might have relaxed me a little bit more.”
Despite the stumbles down the stretch, a T-16 finish still marks the best finish of Conners’ rookie season on Tour. It’s also a significant achievement considering he didn’t expect to even have a spot in the field after failing to advance from the Monday qualifier, only to get a call later in the day that he had snagged a spot as an alternate.
“Gained experience each and every day, and played with the lead really second (round), third and today,” he said. “That wasn’t the outcome I wanted today, but definitely get some things down later tonight and be able to use this experience in the future.”