Corey Conners went off on a surprise start – a Jack Nicklaus encounter on the first tee – with a 70-under-par, 70-under-par that put him in a good position after the initial round.
“I feel like I have my place here,” said Conners.
Playing in the first group of the day, he had the opportunity to see Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the tee shots, which kick off the activities of the first major tournament of the season. Coming back to the podium after his only momentum, 79-year-old Nicklaus congratulated Conners on last week’s win at the Texas Open Valero, which earned him the last available spot at Augusta National .
“It’s a special feeling,” Conners said. It’s cool that Jack Nicklaus knows who I am. ”
The 27-year-old Ontarian, however, had some trouble early on, completing the nine to go one shot above par. He was solid on the mounds, but maybe a little too cautious on the greens. Then, in the middle of the back nine, Conners has launched the attack: he managed consecutive birdies on 13 th and 14 th holes, before managing an eagle at 15 th, par 5.
After a resounding tee shot that left him just 212 yards from the green down the hill, Conners lodged his approach shot six feet from the cut, for an easy ride.
A bogey after three-putt at 18 th came throw some shade on his day. But Conners did not complain. Not after his improbable run to the first major of the season.
Excluded from the top- ranked FedEx Cup standings, Conners had to go through the qualifying on Monday to qualify for the Texas Open. He managed a 20 foot putt for birdie on the 18 th to force overtime, where six golfers participated. With a birdie in the first hole, he eliminated the competition.
With a round of 10 birdies on Sunday, Conners earned his first career PGA Tour victory and got his invitation for Augusta.
Conners knows how likely the probabilities of this scenario were to be infinitely small.
“I’m a math and statistics guy,” he said. I know that the chances of me being here were very slim. I did not think I was there, I can assure you, but I’m doing pretty well. ”
Conners has a much better start than his last Masters Tournament. After qualifying as an amateur in 2015, he played a round of 80, which left him no chance to qualify for the weekend rounds. Now another good round would allow him to play Saturday and Sunday for the first time in Augusta.
Several spectators supported him throughout the day.
“There are many more Canadians than I expected – or at least who pretend to be Canadian -” Conners joked. It was fabulous!”