AUGUSTA, Ga. – This Masters was always going to be special for Corey Conners but Thursday’s opening round began even better than expected.
Playing in the day’s first group, the Canadian ventured out to the first tee early to watch Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial first tee shots.
“I was able to stand on the back of the tee and watch them tee off and really appreciate what they have done for the game of golf,” said Conners, who spoke briefly with Nicklaus who congratulated him for his victory last week. “Being in the first group following them, that was pretty special.”
Conners’ day only improved from there.
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He was 10 strokes better than his last opening round at the Masters in 2015 when he struggled to an 80 on Day 1, but the way he’s been playing the last two weeks there was always going to be improvement.
Conners’ last six rounds include a 68 on April 1 and a playoff to qualify for the Texas Open, a career-changing week at TPC San Antonio with rounds of 69-67-66-66 for his first PGA Tour victory, and on Thursday he played Nos. 13-15 in 4 under par to move into the hunt at Augusta National.
It was another unlikely chapter in what has been a wildly unlikely few days for Conners who couldn’t have imagined he’d be in this position when he teed off last week in the Monday qualifier.
“I did not think it was likely [to play the Masters],” he laughed. “I’m a math and statistics guy and I didn’t think it was likely at all.”