Corey Conners nabs second Valero Texas Open title, denies late Masters bids
Four years later, Conners is a winner on the PGA Tour once again, but this time without surviving the theatrics of a 6-for-1 playoff just to get into the field.
Conners shot a final-round, bogey-free 68 at TPC San Antonio Sunday to come from behind and win the 2023 Valero Texas Open by one stroke over Sam Stevens.
“I’ve drawn from some of the experience I had here and really happy with the way that I hit the ball and got myself in position,” Conners said after the round. “Just kept things simple, felt relaxed. It was certainly challenging and a battle out there, but just an amazing day and can’t believe it. It’s a relief that it’s over.”
The win for the Canadian, his second on the PGA Tour and at the event, ended any hope of a final bid to next week’s first major of the year at the Masters. Conners and Honda Classic winner Chris Kirk were the only players in the top 10 of the leaderboard who had already secured their spots for Augusta.
One final spot was available for this week’s winner if he was not already qualified.
Overnight leader Patrick Rodgers was one of those players looking to grab that final invitation. The 30-year-old was still seeking his first career PGA Tour victory after several close calls. The 54-hole lead was the fourth of his career, and the second this season after he led through three rounds at the RSM Classic.
However, Rodgers lost all momentum with a run of three bogeys in four holes on the front nine. Playing in the final group with Rodgers and Matt Kuchar, Conners sprinted ahead, gaining four strokes on Rodgers over the final four holes of the side.
Rodgers’ lead, which was as many as six on Saturday, was now a four-shot deficit making the turn.
“It’s certainly different than the first three days, but that’s not just for me, that’s for everybody,” Rodgers said. “I definitely felt like I leaned into the experience, I felt like I put my best foot forward there mentally.”
The late charges then came from Sam Ryder, who shot 66 to get in the clubhouse first at 13 under, and Stevens.
Stevens drove the green and made eagle on the 17th to cut Conners’ lead to one.
“I knew that I had to do something pretty cool on the last couple holes, kind of freed me up to make a good swing, hit a good shot. It worked out perfectly,” Stevens said. “You’re just trying to get it up there somewhere around the green, maybe chip it in, try and make a birdie, but worked out great.
“[I] had like eight feet, I couldn’t believe it got as close as it did and was able to make that one.”
His last-gasp effort came up short when he snap-hooked his approach on the par-5 18th into the hospitality tents left of the green and failed to get up and down.
Playing the last a one-stroke cushion ripped a mammoth 361-yard tee shot, hit his second into the left greenside bunker, and made par to secure the title.
Kuchar finished tied for third with Ryder, coming up short in his late Augusta bid. Rickie Fowler finished with a 66 to grab a backdoor top-10, but also needed a win to return to the Masters.