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Conners set for a big 2024 season

Corey Conners Corey Conners - The Canadian Press

The highlight of Corey Conners’ year might very well have been moving day.

Not the one that takes place every Saturday on the PGA Tour, but the one that saw Conners and his family move into a new home they built in Listowel, Ont.

He, wife Malory and daughter Reis will now split their time between their hometown and a winter residence in Florida. That makes them some of Canada’s youngest Snowbirds.

Of course, the trio will also spend a lot of time on the road, following the career of Canada’s top-ranked male golfer, who enjoyed another successful season in 2023, highlighted by his second victory.

“There were lots and lots of positive things,” summed up Conners, who starts the year off at this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. “I felt like I played really, really well in spurts. Making it to the Tour Championship, you can always look back and be pretty proud of the year. Getting another win was a huge positive as well.”

The victory came at the Valero Texas Open, the same event where he won for the first time back in 2019. He also nabbed himself a second pair of custom cowboy boots, the unique prize given to the champion. One pair will remain in Florida while the latest one will be on display at his new Canadian residence.

He added another four top-10 finishes including at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and the BMW Championship, the first two playoff tournaments of the season. That advanced him to the Tour Championship for the fourth time in his career.

If there was a down side to the season, it was in the biggest events. He missed the cut in the Players and U.S. Open and had a tie for 52nd at the Open Championship.

At the Masters, he was searching for his fourth consecutive top-10 finish but playing in cool, rainy conditions, he missed the cut with scores of 73 and 79.

It was at the PGA Championship where he played his best, holding a lead late in the third round before a ball buried under the lip of a bunker led to a double bogey. He ended the tournament in a respectable tie for 12th.

“That left a little to be desired there,” admitted Conners, of his play in the majors. “So, a little disappointing in some of those big events but lots of other highlights. I felt like the games continued to improve and my poor days are not too bad. I can keep myself in it and the good stuff is good enough to continue to rise up the ranks.”

The fact that Conners has been competitive in a few majors over the past four years, does show he has the qualities required for a title in one of the four. His game, anchored by his smooth, buttery swing consistently gets attention from his peers and noted observers. It’s hard not to think that the big picture for the Canadian is bright.

He starts off 2024 in 35th place on the Official World Golf Ranking. That gets him into all eight signature events, the limited-field, big-money tournaments that will reward the winner with up to $4 million. As he approaches the new season, he is confident that his skills are on the upswing. He’s not one to dive deep into the statistics to try and buttress his game; he knows what needs work.

“I can really feel like I already kind of know what the what the stats would say,” said Conners, who celebrates his 32nd birthday on Saturday. “I know my strengths and I know I’ve already improved over my career. I guess I might take a look once a while, but I'm not trying to change my game to make my stats better. Right now, I just want to be the best version of myself.”

In addition to the eight signature events, the four majors and the RBC Canadian Open, Conners has two dates circled on his calendar: the Olympic Games in Paris and the Presidents Cup in Montreal. He played in both previously but wasn’t overly pleased with his performance in either.

At the Tokyo Olympics, he finished 13th, playing the final two rounds with scores of 66 and 65. The Presidents Cup in 2022 wasn’t so good. Conners ended up with an 0-4 record, losing the clinching match in the Sunday singles to Xander Schauffele.

While that performance was humbling, Conners is hoping to use the experience to his advantage if he makes the International Team led by captain Mike Weir.

“I definitely think I’d feel more comfortable the second time around,” he stated. “I think that first experience was great, but it was nerve-racking and unlike anything I'd experienced before. You can hear what it's like from other people but until you experience it, you don't really know.”

For now, Conners is focused on this week’s event and getting the season off to a fast start. Just like average Canadians in the winter time, he’s hoping for a little fun in the sun.