Conners ready to take ‘next step’
Canada’s top linksman says he reached all of his goals but one this season
Corey Conners rarely shows a big swing of emotions on the golf course, even when he’s competing on the biggest stages. There’s not much flash, but there’s a whole lot of game.
He had eight top-10 results in the just-finished PGA Tour season, and 19 top-25 outcomes in 30 tournaments. He went to the Olympics, made more than $4.5 million (U.S.) in prize money and reached a career-high 32nd in the world rankings. Oh, and he made a hole-in-one at the Masters in April.
“I forget about that once and a while,” Conners says with a chuckle. “That was pretty sweet.”
Life is pretty sweet for the 29year-old from Listowel, Ont. He is a regular at golf’s majors, where he finished in the top 20 in three of four this year, and he has had conversations with Trevor Immelman, the International team captain for the Presidents Cup, about a spot in next year’s event in North Carolina. He is part of the golfing elite. And his wife, Malory, is expecting their first child this fall.
He and Malory, who grew up next to Conners’ grandparents, might be in South Florida now, but Conners is still a smalltown Ontario boy. He says he’s usually in bed by 9 p.m. and he mentions cooking as one of his personal likes.
So does he feel like he belongs in a world of high rollers, with Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau?
“I definitely feel like I’ve been trending that way and feel like I am (a top player),” Conners says. “I feel like I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’m seeing some of the benefits pay off ... hopefully I can continue on this path and keep making my way to the top.”
Conners’ coach, Derek Ingram, has known the Canadian star since he was a teenager and suggests his “relentless” preparation is the key to his success. During tournament weeks, Conners tries to get some work in Monday afternoons, but Ingram encourages him to take a break once in a while. If he does, he’s usually at the course the next day at 7 a.m.
Putting improvement has been a high priority, and he says a caddy switch at the start of the season helped him read greens better. He also switched to a left-hand-low style and improved from 181st to 109th in strokes gained: putting before the 2021 season finale.
Ingram was with Conners at each of the major championships and saw him finish tied for 10th at the 2020 Masters, delayed until last November, then tie for eighth at the next Masters in April. He led after the first round of the PGA Championship and finished tied for 17th, missed the cut at the U.S. Open and tied for 15th at the Open Championship after playing in the penultimate group with Jordan Spieth on the final day. He said earlier in the summer he left each one with a bit of a “sour taste.”
“I hate to hype my guys up and add pressure,” Ingram says, “but I really think that there is some strong evidence over the last year, the last five majors, you’re not going to find a lot of guys who were more consistent or who had better chances to win. He’s earned the right to be a little pissed off not closing them out, and now it would be really nice to take the next step.”
So what is the next step? Conners says he is a goal setter and hit “basically all of them” this year, except for winning a second career title. So that goal will go back on top of the list. But, after tying for 22nd at the Tour Championship, Conners isn’t likely to play much this fall. He is not in the field this week as the new PGA Tour season opens Thursday, he plans to return to Canada for the wedding of tour rookie Taylor Pendrith next month, and the baby is due not long after that.