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Conners battles winds for low score at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Corey Conners Corey Conners - The Canadian Press

Corey Conners may have been one of the few PGA Tour players who looked at the weather forecast on Friday and smiled.

In blowing conditions that made it tough to control the ball, Conners posted a 66, easily the lowest score of the morning wave at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“I got off to a really nice start,” he said. “As challenging as it was, tried to keep my foot down and continue to be aggressive as much as possible. So, I mean, it was definitely nice to have a morning tee time. But even last week when I was at home looking at the forecast for this week, I saw the wind forecast for today and I've been expecting it for a while.”

Conners’ round included seven birdies, five of them on the opening nine, against just a single bogey. Four of his birdies came on the par-5 holes, completing a sweep His lone bogey occurred at the 13th hole when his approach shot went long and ended up in a bunker at the back of the green.

When he finished, he led the field in Strokes Gained: Total, picking up a whopping 7.2 shots on the field.

“It was excellent,” said Conners of his day. “I played really, really solid. I did everything well. Drove it well, hit my irons and wedges well and made some putts. As difficult of a day as it was, I left myself in great spots. So, it was a fairly stress-free round. Can never be stress-free out here. But I was really happy with the way I kept things really simple and just focused on each shot, hitting it really solid.”

While his swing was solid, he also praised the mental side of his game on the difficult day. He and caddie Danny Sahl did a great job of figuring out the wind and then committing to every shot.

Conners has been off to a slow start this season and has yet to register a top 10. That’s not surprising as his play on the West Coast has never been strong. He is usually happy when the tour heads back to Florida.

Friday’s round, which marked just the second time in his last 10 rounds that he’s broken 70, followed a string of solid play at Bay Hill Golf Course. He has finished 11th and third in his last two starts here.

“I think having success here in the past or playing well here in the past definitely adds some comfort,” he said. “But it's a very demanding golf course. It's a very difficult golf course.”

Conners was tied with Cam Young and Xander Schauffele at six under, three shots behind leader Kurt Kitayama.