Conners holds off late Stevens surge to win second Valero Texas Open

By Sports Desk April 02, 2023

Corey Conners won the Valero Texas Open for the second time on Sunday, carding a bogey-free four-under 68 for a one-stroke victory ahead of rookie Sam Stevens.

The Canadian world number 40, who won at TPC San Antonio in 2019, had headed into the final day in second place behind Patrick Rodgers, who had five bogeys on Sunday to slip out of contention.

Conners was faultless, with birdies on the par-five second, followed by the sixth, ninth and 15th holes, opening up a three-shot lead upon the latter.

But Stevens stormed into contention with an eagle on the par-four 17th with a brilliant approach off the tee from 299 yards, before missing a nine-foot birdie putt on the 18th that may have forced a playoff.

Conners held his nerve with a three-foot putt for par on the last to secure victory, his second on the PGA Tour, both in San Antonio. The Canadian's next-best PGA result was a third-place finish at last year's Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The final day surge of 26-year-old Stevens came off a six-under 66 that included five birdies and two eagles to finish at 14-under overall.

Stevens' runner-up finish comes a week after coming third at the Corales Puntacana Championship.

Sam Ryder (66 on Sunday) and Matt Kuchar (68) were tied for third at 13 under, with Rodgers ending up with a one-over final day 73 to fall back to 11 under.

Chez Reavie carded a seven-under 65 to finish tied for sixth at 10-under overall, while Rickie Fowler had a final day six-under 66 to end up eight under.

Related items

  • Shane Lowry admits to emotional week as family messages relayed before Ryder Cup Shane Lowry admits to emotional week as family messages relayed before Ryder Cup

    Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald has cranked up the emotion in the team room this week by bringing his players to tears but it is all part of the plan to get his stars ready to regain the trophy from the United States.

    The tactic of having messages from family relayed in meetings during the build-up has been well used in the past by both sides and the Americans will have undoubtedly done the same at Marco Simone.

    And while the videos tug at the heartstrings, they are used as a tool to help boost confidence and reinforce the reasons for their presence in Rome this week.

    “It’s an emotional week and even some of the stuff that’s happened already this week would get you quite emotional,” said Irishman Shane Lowry, who famously said after the defeat in Whistling Straits two years ago he had cried then – but not for his 2019 Open win or the birth of his first child.

    “There’s videos that are played in the team rooms in the evenings, motivational videos and it just kind of hits home a little bit.

    “I’m not going to elaborate much further than that, but Luke and his team have done a great job already this week on Monday and Tuesday.”

    World number three Jon Rahm did, however, expand a little further on what they have been viewing behind closed doors.

    “I don’t know how much of that they’re going to post, so that’s kind of personal for us,” he added.

    “There’s very few players not shedding a few tears yesterday afternoon. I can say that.

    “It was a lot of family-related (content) and the reason why all of us are here. If you guys (the media) were to watch it, it would make you feel a lot of the same emotions we felt.”

    While family are leant on heavily for such contributions, the players often seek out reassurance and advice from other sources and Rahm did not think twice about taking counsel from his good friend and record Ryder Cup points scorer Sergio Garcia.

    His fellow Spaniard is ineligible to play having resigned his European Tour membership following his move to LIV Golf and despite Rahm campaigning for his inclusion, only a couple of weeks ago calling his omission “stupid” and even Garcia himself trying to negotiate a way in, there was no way back for the 43-year-old.

    But that has not stopped Rahm consulting his countryman – and former Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter who was not considered for the same reasons – as late as Monday.

    “I did talk to him (Garcia) and ask for advice. He did show me a lot of what to do at Whistling and obviously in Paris, as well,” added the Masters champion.

    “But I did have a little bit of a chat with him, and with Poulter, as well.

    “Poulter was a little bit longer than last week. Sergio as recently as yesterday.

    “Not that it’s going to be easy to take on the role that those two had both on and off the golf course, but just to hear them talk about what they thought and what they felt is obviously invaluable information.”

    The dynamic within the team room often plays a huge part in the overall success of the team and as Europe look to bounce back from their record defeat in Wisconsin, Lowry said fighting for a common cause was galvanising.

    “I think being a part of something that is bigger than you or anything else is pretty cool,” he said.

    “Whistling Straits (a 19-9 defeat) was hard to take but it was quite motivating for me coming away from that and it’s quite motivating for me this week.

    “I’m looking forward to going out there and hopefully earning some points for Europe and hopefully we can all do a great job at trying to win the trophy back.”

  • No guarantees on tattoo – Luke Donald not promising ink if Europe win Ryder Cup No guarantees on tattoo – Luke Donald not promising ink if Europe win Ryder Cup

    Europe captain Luke Donald has no plans to follow the example of Thomas Bjorn and get a tattoo if his team regain the Ryder Cup in Rome.

    Bjorn promised his players in 2018 he would get himself inked if they beat the United States at Le Golf National in Paris, which they comfortably did by seven points.

    The Dane followed through on his word three months later, but Donald is not intending to follow suit if the result goes his side’s way at Marco Simone.

    “No guarantees on the tattoo,” Donald said with a smile.

    “I certainly don’t have any on my body, just to let you in. But I’m sure we can find a suitable way to celebrate if it goes our way on Sunday.”

    Padraig Harrington had pledged to get a tattoo in 2021, but was spared the task after his side suffered a record defeat at Whistling Straits.

    “If my team produce a winning week I will be getting a tattoo to mark the occasion, and I’m very comfortable that they only asked that much of me because I would have given more,” Harrington said at the time.

    “I think it’s an unwritten rule, so it has come up in conversation. But definitely, it’s a given now in Europe: captain has to get a tattoo.”

    Donald was speaking on the first official day of practice after sending his 12 players out in groups of four which offered a hint at several potential pairings.

    Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry were in the first group alongside Sepp Straka and Tommy Fleetwood, with Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg in group two.

    Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose, Robert MacIntyre and Nicolai Hojgaard made up the final group.

    “In terms of the pairings, some of that is determined on media rotations,” Donald said. “Six of the guys today will be doing media, so you send those off in the early groups. So I wouldn’t read too much into it.

    “Obviously we do have a plan in place and that plan can be adjusted throughout the next few days. The vice-captains are out there watching the players and seeing how they look and how they feel and all that goes into it.

    “But yeah, there’s certainly a plan that is in place.”

  • Luke Donald: Europe have work cut out to wrest Ryder Cup from ‘very strong’ USA Luke Donald: Europe have work cut out to wrest Ryder Cup from ‘very strong’ USA

    European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald admits his team “have their work cut out” as they seek to wrest the trophy back from the United States.

    After a record 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021, Donald has the unenviable task of trying to maintain the hosts’ 30-year unbeaten record on home soil.

    On paper the Americans have the superior team, with 10 of their 12 players currently in the world’s top 20, and even though Europe have three of the top four, Donald is aware of the challenge which awaits in Italy .

    “I know it’s going to be a difficult next few days, it really is. The US are very strong. We know that,” he said at a press conference at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

    “We are coming off our worst defeat ever in a Ryder Cup. US players are strong, high up in the world rankings and they have some great partnerships and have had a lot of success.

    “We have our work cut out but as captain you have to be confident. I certainly have a lot of belief in my team and you have to have belief that you’re going to get them into a place where they are going to be successful.”

    Marco Simone is likely to prove a testing layout for both teams due to the weather forecast for the week – temperatures are expected to hit 29 degrees Celsius over the three days – and the undulations and big elevation changes around the course.

    Donald has not ruled out some of his players featuring in all five sessions but is more confident that no-one, not even rookies Ludvig Aberg, Robert MacIntyre, Sepp Straka and Nicolai Hojgaard, will be left on the bench until Sunday’s singles.

    “In terms of playing five, I think there’s some guys that certainly could do that, and we have done that in the past. This is a very tiring, taxing golf course,” he added.

    “It’s a long build-up so I’m wary of some of that. I’ll certainly be considering that but it’s not out of the question that some people might play five.

    “I very much doubt that someone wouldn’t play until the Sunday singles.”

    Unusually Donald has opted to begin the first two days with the foursomes format and leave the fourballs until the afternoon.

    While the Americans traditionally pick that option when it is their honour, it is the first time since 1993, the last time Europe lost on home soil, that it will be played that way on this side of the Atlantic.

    “It’s pretty simple really. We feel like as a team, statistically we are stronger in foursomes within our team than we would be in fourballs,” said Donald.

    “Why not get off to a fast start? That’s it.”

    USA captain Zach Johnson was asked whether he had second thoughts about his captain’s picks after the overlooked Bryson DeChambeau won his second LIV event in successive months on Sunday.

    Brooks Koepka is the only player from the Saudi breakaway league to feature in the team having qualified by virtue of his performances in majors after winning the US PGA Championship and finishing second in the Masters.

    On Sunday DeChambeau said it would have been “nice to have a call” but Johnson has freely admitted he paid no attention to the LIV Golf tour and so the 30-year-old was never on his radar, finishing 54th on USA’s qualifying list.

    “We have a points system within the PGA of America, within the Ryder Cup USA. It’s pretty evident how you garner points and which tournaments can accumulate points,” said Johnson.

    “When it got down towards the end of the process, it was the top 20, the top 25 guys in that point system that I felt like had the merit and should have my full attention.”

    Johnson also confirmed there would be no morale-boosting last-minute visit from Tiger Woods, who is still recovering from ankle surgery, despite him being part of the process this year and the 15-time major winner would be relegated to the role of cheerleader from back home.

    “No, Tiger will not be joining us in Italy. He’s got a lot on his plate. As far as communicating with him, we have up to this point but he understands that now that our feet are on the ground, it’s probably kind of best that we navigate this ourselves,” said the USA captain.

    “At this point it’s more encouragement on his side, whether he’s texting the guys or texting the vice-captains and captains, he’s there to encourage because he’s very invested in what we do year-in and year-out with Team USA.

    “We are going to utilise his knowledge and his wisdom, his candour and his passion the best we can but when it comes to the week of the tournament, if you’re not in on it and inside the team room, inside the ropes, shoulder-to-shoulder with these guys, it’s not fair to ask him questions.

    “At the same time, I don’t know if that’s proper and I think he would understand completely.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.