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Conners earns $502,391 at U.S. Open, plus Olympic team ticket

Corey Conners Corey Conners - The Canadian Press

Heading into the U.S. Open, Corey Conners knew he had to have some kind of good showing to qualify for Canada's Olympic golf team.

But Conners didn't really know the details, and he didn't really want to know, either.

Conners, from Listowel, Ont., and Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., officially qualified for the Olympics on Monday when the men's world golf rankings were updated to reflect the U.S. Open's results. Taylor's spot was almost guaranteed heading to the deadline but Conners needed to tie for 11th or better at the third major of the men's season to represent Canada at the upcoming Summer Games.

He tied for ninth on Sunday to book his ticket to Paris.

"I was very unaware of what I needed to do," said Conners in a video conference. "I knew I was going to need to play well, that's about it. I had no idea what place I needed to finish.

"My strategy was just to get the ball in the holes in the least amount of strokes as possible and take care of business at the U.S. Open."

It helped Conners that the player he was trying to catch for the final Canadian spot — Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford — missed the cut at Pinehurst No. 2. When the world rankings were updated Monday, Taylor was 35th, Conners was 37th, and Hadwin was 38th.

Conners's caddie, Danny Sahl of Sherwood, Alta., knew what mark his golfer needed to return to the Olympics and filled him in as soon as his final putt dropped on Sunday.

"He said that the numbers were saying I needed to finish 11th and that I was ninth at that point, was looking pretty good," said Conners. "I was relieved I had done it but I wasn't really certain.

"I was fighting to contend in the U.S. Open first and foremost last week, and that's definitely a relief to know that the result was good enough."

Taylor, Conners, Hadwin, and the other Canadians making regular appearances on the PGA Tour usually practice together on the Tuesday before tournaments. Although they were all vying for Olympic berths, they rarely spoke about it this year.

"I think it was more relief, honestly, than anything to have a spot this morning," said Taylor, who was an Olympic torchbearer ahead of the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. "Credit to Corey and Adam and (Taylor Pendrith) and (Mackenzie Hughes).

"Everybody was playing great golf and I feel like our depth is so good that it was going to be really difficult to get one of those two spots."

Pendrith, from Richmond Hill, Ont., needed to finish third or better at the U.S. Open to bump Hadwin, but tied for 16th at 3 over. Pendrith moved nine spots up the world rankings on Monday into 56th.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., is currently in a position to return to the Olympics on the women's side. She was 14th in the world rankings after a tie for 34th at the Meijer LPGA Classic on Sunday.

The women's Olympic field will be finalized next Monday after the KPMG Women's PGA Championship, the third major of the women's golf season.

Both Conners and Henderson represented Canada at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Henderson also played at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Hughes, from Dundas, Ont., and Hamilton's Alena Sharp were Canada's other players in Tokyo.

"We're used to playing big golf tournaments week in and week out on the PGA Tour and major championships but this event has a little more specialty to it," said Conners on representing Canada. "It's an awesome feeling putting on the Canadian jersey, I guess we'd call it a golf shirt, carrying around the Canadian bag."

Calgary's Emily Phoenix, Golf Canada's high-performance director and team lead for the Olympics, said that the 2024 Summer Games would be different than Tokyo in 2021, and not just because of the restrictions placed on the athletes by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This year we're going into the Games on the men's side even stronger," said Phoenix. "Both Nick and Corey are ranked inside the top 40 in the world right now on the OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking). I think that's huge.

"Both have also won tournaments in just over the past year, so I think from a team standpoint, we're looking really strong."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 16, 2024.