AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - From the last player to get an Augusta National invite to an appearance on the Masters leaderboard Corey Conners’ wild April ride continued on Thursday firing an opening round 70 to sit four shots off the lead at the year’s first major.
Just 10 days ago the Canadian was playing in the qualifier for the Texas Open and fully expected to be sitting on his couch watching the Masters on television.
But an astonishing two-shot victory in San Antonio on Sunday earned Conners, ranked 196 in the world, a maiden PGA Tour title, a $1.35 million pay day and a priceless invitation to Augusta National.
“I’m a math and stats guy and it was very unlikely that I was going to be here, I’ll say that, especially having to Monday qualify last week,” admitted Conners.
“So, yeah, could have said almost certain that I wouldn’t be here but it’s worked out really well and I’m really happy.”
Connors was in the first group off on Thursday, receiving a congratulatory handshake from Jack Nicklaus after the Golden Bear and Gary Player fired the ceremonial tee shots.
Receiving recognition from Nicklaus, however, would not be the highlight of the day for the 27-year-old who would later eagle the par-five 15th to briefly sit top the leaderboard.
“Never thought in a million years that Jack Nicklaus would know who I am,” said Conners. “I had a great day out there.
“It was beautiful, it was fun to be first off this morning, felt pretty special to be out there on the tee and I am really happy with how I played.”
Conners certainly enjoyed his opening round far more than his first visit to Augusta National in 2015 when he qualified for the Masters by finishing runner up at the U.S. Amateur.
That day the Canadian labored to an eight-over 80.
“It’s been wild, definitely unexpected but I’m playing some good golf and really excited to be here and honored to be playing in the Masters,” said Conners.
“I had a great day out there today, a lot of fun, and hit some quality shots.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury