KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Quietly, this has been coming for Corey Conners.
On Thursday, in the opening spherical of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s daunting Ocean Course, Conners performed among the best rounds of his profession, capturing a 5-under 67 to take the lead into Friday’s second spherical.
He’s the primary Canadian to lead a spherical in a significant championship since Mike Weir led the 2009 U.S. Open.
Conners leads a gaggle of six gamers at 3-under that features Brooks Koepka, Keegan Bradley and Viktor Hovland.
Defending champion Collin Morikawa, Phil Mickelson, Cameron Tringale, Martin Laird, Gary Woodland, Branden Grace and Kevin Streelman are among the many gamers at 2-under.
While participant after participant got here off the course trying drained and talking of how demanding it was on the market, Conners regarded fairly cool, calm and picked up afterward. His card regarded fairly stress-free — six birdies and just one bogey.
“I’d say it’s unattainable to be stress-free round this golf course,’’ Conners stated. “You can’t go to sleep on the market on any holes. It’s very difficult. I used to be lucky to have an excellent day [and] made it as least demanding as doable on myself.
“It was a very particular spherical. I did numerous issues actually, very well. I hit numerous actually good photographs and holed some good putts early in the spherical, and that basically helped enhance the boldness.’’
Conners entered the week having had 4 top-10 finishes in 2021, together with a tie for eighth on the Masters, a seventh-place end on the Players Championship and a 3rd on the Arnold Palmer Invitational — all high-profile tournaments with stout fields.
But that is new territory for the 29-year-old, who’s enjoying in his ninth profession main championship. In his earlier two PGA Championships, he has a tie for sixty fourth in 2019 and a missed lower in 2020.
“I form of began the day considering, ‘Why not me? There’s birdies to be had. Just play,’ ’’ Conners stated. “I’m actually happy with the rating. I undoubtedly knew in my preparation that it was doable to have an honest spherical out right here and shoot a 5-, 6-under-par spherical. Just play with endurance, benefit from alternatives after they current themselves.’’
On a day when the Ocean Course ate the lunch of some high-profile gamers (Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas shot 75, Adam Scott a 78), Conners did simply that.
“It was not simple on the market,’’ Bryson DeChambeau stated after capturing even-par. “Mentally, you’ve gotten to present numerous resolve on the market — psychological fortitude to simply push on when issues aren’t going effectively.’’
It absolutely seemed like Conners had a really totally different day than the likes of DeChambeau or McIlroy, Thomas or Scott.
“I undoubtedly felt calm on the market,’’ he stated. “It was enjoyable. It’s enjoyable to hit good photographs; it’s enjoyable to give your self birdie probabilities and enjoyable to roll in putts.’’
As the week goes on, Conners will do effectively for himself to preserve considering, “Why not me?’’
“Definitely I’ve numerous perception in myself, and I’ve been enjoying effectively for fairly some time,’’ he stated. “I’m excited for alternative to play in opposition to the perfect gamers in the world and put my recreation to the check. I’ve numerous confidence in my recreation and I’m excited for the remainder of the weekend.’’
The leaders rising from the early wave of tee occasions included Bradley, the 2011 PGA winner, and Koepka, the 2018 and ‘19 PGA winner who started his day with a double bogey on his first gap, the tenth.
“It wasn’t superb, the beginning,’’ Koepka stated. “You can’t try this stuff if you need to win. You’ve simply acquired to be extra centered. I don’t know if that’s a scarcity of not enjoying [because of knee surgery] or what. I don’t know. It was simply silly. A poor membership selection off 10. So psychological mistake there. [I] deserved each little bit of that double bogey.’’
The gaffe, although, “helped get the spherical going and acquired me centered,’’ in accordance to Koepka, who performed his ultimate 17 holes in 5-under par.
Bradley had a unique expertise than Koepka in that he felt in the zone as quickly as he hit his first shot of the day.
“I hit the ball about nearly as good as I can hit it,’’ the previous St. John’s star stated. “Some days you get on the market and also you go, ‘I’m going to goal it at that tree and draw it off that tree,’ and it comes proper up off that tree and does what you assume. Today was a type of days.’’
No one, in fact, had a greater day than Conners.