So, what do you do if you’re a PGA pro who can’t play golf these days?
If you’re Corey Conners, you start playing video games and walk around the house in cowboy boots.
Yup, these are indeed strange times.
Under normal circumstances, Conners would be in San Antonio, defending his title in the Valero Texas Open and getting ready for The Masters.
Instead, he’s at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., along with wife Malory. With his golf course closed and practising social distancing, he’s been finding ways to stay busy. That includes his inaugural foray into video gaming systems.
“I’ve never had a game system or been a gamer, but I’ve been playing NHL and racing games. That’s pretty much it,” he admitted during a conference call on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to peck away at the NHL to get my skills respectable enough where I could challenge some people online. But right now, I have a lot of work to do there.”
And the boots? That’s a sort of Texas Open version of the Green Jacket, awarded annually to the tournament champion. Most days of the year, Conners keeps his on a display shelf along with the trophy, but this week he slipped them on to wear around the house, hoping they would bring him some positive energy.
So far, Conners hasn’t missed golf. He played an early flurry of 12 tournaments this season, much of it in hopes of earning a spot on the Presidents Cup team. He said the break has allowed him to refresh his mind and body, and be off the road for a bit.
“It’s been great to spend some time with my wife at home. We don’t really get to spend extended periods of time at home so we’re enjoying it,” he said. “I don’t really have a plan at this point for getting back out into competitive mode and practising.”
The road Conners travelled to get to last year’s Valero Texas Open victory is an almost unbelievable one. A missed cut at the stop in the Dominican Republic allowed him to return to the U.S. in time for the Texas Open’s Monday qualifier, where he earned the last spot in the field by winning a six-man playoff.
After three solid rounds, he shot into the lead on Sunday with birdies on four of his first five holes but followed that with four consecutive bogeys. On the back nine, he regrouped and added six more birdies to earn a two-shot win, his first on the PGA Tour, and a spot in the Masters the following week.
“It’s been sort of a refreshing mental activity for me to kind of remember the good stuff I did last year and remember getting my first win,” Conners reflected. “There were a lot of highs from that week – just in the last round, making a bunch of birdies. I made 10 birdies, pretty awesome, and just having the satisfaction of winning and knowing and proving to myself that I was able to get it done was pretty awesome. Looking forward to getting in that position many more times.”
The Listowel, Ont., native rode that victory into more good play throughout the season, ending it by making the Tour Championship. That came with a basket full of exemptions including the Masters, where he was set to be one of four Canadians in the field.
While a trip to Augusta National is currently on hold until a new date is secured, Conners is hoping he’ll also be making a visit home to play in his national championship.
The status of the RBC Canadian Open has not been announced yet and for the time being, it still holds a place on the PGA Tour schedule of June 11-14.
“I’ll be really disappointed if it gets delayed, but obviously it’s not an easy decision and there are very valid reasons for things getting cancelled or postponed,” Conners said of his national open. “It’s an event I’ve been looking forward to all year really. It’s so much fun to play in front of the Canadian fans. The support is incredible at the RBC Canadian Open. If it gets played, I’ll be very happy and be trying to get in the mix. But if not, we’ll have to wait until next year.”
Right now, waiting is about all anyone can do. It’s a good time for video games and cowboy boots.