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Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter

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A couple of days removed from his final round at Augusta National, Corey Conners was better able to process what he’d accomplished with his tie for eighth at the Masters.
 
It was vastly different than the feelings he had in the moments immediately after he walked off the course. At that time, Conners was disappointed at not playing better, at not keeping himself up with the leaders and in the chase for a green jacket.
 
“I was quite disappointed,” he admitted on Tuesday as he prepared for the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C. “I had big expectations for the day. I just kind of had a slow start to the round and made some mistakes and compounded some errors and made some bogeys.”
 
Conners began the final round five shots back of eventual winner Hideki Matsuyama. After a birdie at the second hole, he hit a rough patch, going five over on holes five through eight. That ended any chance he had to contend although he rallied on the back nine to finish in a tie for eighth.
 
There was some consolation in that he earned a return trip to next year’s Masters by virtue of his finish. When he makes that drive down Magnolia Lane in 2022, he’ll come armed with the knowledge he gained this time around.
 
“As far as Sunday, didn't quite have the feel on the greens like I had the first few days,” admitted Conners. “Obviously playing for a green jacket, which is a pretty big deal, just wasn't quite as relaxed on Sunday as I was the first few days. It's something to be a little more aware of when I get back in the mix there in the future.”
 
Conners’ performance drew plenty of attention back in Canada, especially in his hometown of Listowel, Ont. The local Tim Hortons restaurant went so far as to create a Corey Conners Hole-in-One doughnut in celebration of the favourite son’s ace on the sixth hole in the second round.
 
The creation had green sprinkles on it with a white Timbit sitting in the middle of the doughnut, as if it was a ball diving into the cup.
 
“That was pretty sweet,” smiled Conners. “Not something they normally do, so I was definitely quite pumped up about that. Wish I could access one of those right now but I’m pretty far away from the closest Tim Hortons. Definitely a pretty special moment when I saw what they had done.”
 
The love and attention the 29-year-old receives from Canadians is in many ways the same as that which Matsuyama receives from Japanese fans.
 
Conners also sees similarities between the Japanese star’s victory and Mike Weir’s Masters win back in 2003. Both players come from golf-mad countries that have only a handful of players on the PGA Tour. Just as Weir’s victory was monumental for Canadian golf, many are expecting Matsuyama’s to be the same in his home country. It’s something Americans can’t truly grasp with so many of their golfers at the top of their games.
 
“Definitely I saw some things about Hideki, playing for Japan,” said Conners. “I definitely feel that same sense of pride really to Canada, and all the support that I have from Canada is awesome. Thinking back to when Mike Weir won the Masters in 2003, he was playing for all of Canada, and all of Canada was behind him.”
 
Conners now turns his attention to this week’s event, which has been known by players to have a relaxed, casual atmosphere. That’s welcome after the stress of the year’s first men’s major.
 
It’s one of the most popular tournaments on the PGA Tour calendar and for Conners, it’s also another opportunity to continue his run of good play, which has seen him log six top-10 finishes this season. He was tied for 21st at this stop last year and posted a sterling 63 in the second round, which was his career low on the PGA Tour.
 
“Feel good, have a lot of confidence in my game right now,” he said, “and yeah, just trying to keep riding that wave of good play.”
 
For Conners, it’s all about good play, high finishes and, of course, the odd doughnut.