Corey Conners was the last man in the Masters, and halfway through Thursday, he’s the leader in the clubhouse.
Conners played from the first threesome off the tee Thursday morning, easing his way into Augusta National with a one-over 37 on the front nine. He was still one over after parring the 12th hole, but then a birdie-birdie-eagle blurry quickly pushed him to three under and in sole possession of the lead.
What’s most remarkable about Conners isn’t that he was the last man into the event, it’s how he accomplished that feat. Conners Monday-qualified into last week’s Valero Texas Open via a playoff, and proceeded to win the damn thing just six days later. His final round at TPC San Antonio was filled with 10 birdies, four bogeys and four pars. But it ended in victory, and so he was on a flight to Georgia.
Arriving in Augusta, Conners noted that a top 10 finish would be “pretty awesome.” Thus far, he’s well on his way. The 27-year-old finished with a three-putt bogey to card a two-under 70 for his first round, his name still atop the leaderboard, albeit joined by five others.
Conners is not a complete rookie here at Augusta National. He finished second to Gunn Yang at the 2014 U.S. Amateur, earning an invitation to the 2015 Masters. A young kid named Jordan Spieth would go on to win that year as Conners missed the cut with polar rounds of 80 and 69.