PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Corey Conners shot a 4-under-par 67 on Thursday at Innisbrook Resort, rolled in 104 feet of putts and settled in for his lunch leading a field that included Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods.
Not bad for a guy who was headed out of town following a pedestrian showing at Monday’s 18-hole qualifier for this week’s Valspar Championship.
Canadian Conners, who is playing his first season on the PGA Tour, struggled to a 1-under round on Monday and was well outside the top four qualifiers when he got the call that someone had withdrawn and he had gotten in as an alternate.
“I just finished and got a call from the Tour saying that I was in. It was obviously a great feeling to get into the field and kind of had a mindset of trying to take advantage of sort of a good break,” Conners said.
The 26-year-old opened his round with a birdie and made the turn at 4 under par. He was 5 under when he suffered his only blemish, missing the green at the 18th hole and making bogey, but his 67 was good for the early lead.
Thursday’s round was an important step for Conners, who has missed just a single cut in 10 starts this season but his best finish is a tie for 29th at Torrey Pines.
“I haven't had the best results on the weekend so trying to learn from prior experiences and kind of get in a better rhythm and stay focused,” said Conners, who has shot a sub-par round just twice on Sunday this season.