Planet Golf — 31 March 2023 by GW staff and news services
Conners holds off field, wins Valero

SAN ANTONIO — Corey Conners won the Valero Texas Open for the second time in five years Sunday for his second PGA TOUR title, closing with a 4-under 68 for a one-stroke victory over rookie Sam Stevens.

Also the 2019 winner, Conners had a 15-under 273 total on TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course. The Canadian now heads to the Masters, where he tied sixth last year for his second straight top-10 finish at Augusta National.

A shot behind Patrick Rodgers starting play, Conners had a three-shot lead after he birdied No. 15. Stevens eagled the 17th, but missed a 9-foot birdie putt at 18 that would have tied it. Connors ended it with a 3-foot par putt on 18.

Stevens shot a 66. Sam Ryder (66) and Matt Kuchar (68) followed at 13 under.

Rodgers saw a chance for his first TOUR victory and first Masters spot slip away. He shot a 73 to finish fifth at 11 under.

Conner’s best finish since hoisting the 2019 Valero Texas Open trophy was a third-place effort at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year.

Conners led after the first round with a 64 when the weather-delayed opening 18 finished Friday. But his second-round 72 dropped him three behind Rodgers after 36 holes, which Conners cut to a stroke with his third-round 69.

Stevens was third last week at the PGA TOUR’s Corales Puntacana Championship.


SAN ANTONIO — Nothing much stirred for 13 holes on moving day at the Valero Texas Open.

At No. 14, it was off to the races.

Playing straight downwind on a breezy Saturday at TPC San Antonio, the 551-yard par-5 yielded 40 birdies, more than any other hole at the Oaks Course. Patrick Rodgers, the leader for the entire third round, made one of them. So did eight of the 11 players within five shots of his 54-hole lead. Rodgers and most of his chasers made birdie on the short par-4 17th, too. Chris Kirk was the exception. He eagled it.

Those two holes provided much of the scoring drama in a round that began late due to fog delays way back on Thursday morning. No one in contention shot better than 4-under 68 in a round that averaged nearly two-tenths of a stroke over par of 72. As it turned out, moving day provided barely a budge.

Before it moved in 2010 to TPC San Antonio, the Texas Open was a scoring bonanza. The field used to play the resort course at La Cantera, where scores in the mid-60s were typical. Tommy Armour III shot 26-under 254 there in 2003, a 72-hole scoring record that stood until 2017.

Those days are gone. The Oaks Course is longer, tighter, rockier and more complex. No one expects scores in the mid-60s. Now they’re a bonus.

On Saturday, Rodgers shot 1-under 71 to finish at 12 under, a shot ahead of 2019 Texas Open winner Corey Conners, who shot 69. Rodgers made three birdies, but he took three putts on the par-4 sixth and made bogey from a greenside bunker after a pushed drive on the par-5 18th.

“I didn’t quite take advantage the way I had in the previous rounds,” said Rodgers, who started 66-67. “A little sloppy with the wedge play. A little sloppy on the greens. But I knew there was a long way to go heading into today.”

Rodgers never lost his lead. It narrowed to one stroke late in the day, but until his bogey on the final hole Rodgers made few mistakes of consequence.

“It was part of the patience I had,” he said.

Conners made seven birdies Saturday, including five on the back nine, the 14th and 17th among them.

“I love this golf course and feel really comfortable out here,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun battle, but I’ll be giving it my all.”

Conners missed a 7-foot birdie putt to tie Rodgers, who in 235 starts has three runner-up finishes but no wins.

“I think we all know what’s at stake with a win out here,” Rodgers said. “I haven’t gotten the job done in my career, but it’s quite a thrill.”

Finishing in third alone at minus 9, Matt Kuchar brought a 5-under round to the tee of the par-5 18th. He hooked his drive into a cactus, took an unplayable lie and made double. He shot 69 with six birdies — the 14th and 17th among them.

“This is a tough golf course, one that it’s easy to go wayward, easy to make some big numbers,” Kuchar said. “It’s a course I have a huge amount of respect for. It is a tough, demanding golf course and I paid the price with a poor tee shot on the last.”

Now 30, Rodgers is 52nd on the FedEx Cup points list with a chance to move up significantly — and secure a two-year exception on TOUR. Sunday represents his fourth time as the 54-hole leader, most recently in November at the RSM Classic, where he tied for 10th.

“This is why I play,” Rodgers said. “Why I compete. And I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow.”


SAN ANTONIO — Veterans Padraig Harrington and Matt Kuchar each shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to share the early lead with MJ Daffue and Roberto Diaz in the weather-delayed first round of the Valero Texas Open.

Daffue eagled the par-5 18th hole at TPC San Antonio and Diaz made birdie on 18 to join the 51-year-old Harrington — who has played on the PGA TOUR, DP World Tour and PGA TOUR Champions this year — and the 44-year-old Kuchar atop the leaderboard.

“I’m an optimistic, pretty enthusiastic person,” Harrington said. “I wake up and the minute I hit a golf shot I’m dreaming I’m going to find the secret. Even though there isn’t one, you’re always hopeful, dreaming. Let’s see if I really am better out there with the kids.”

Play was delayed by fog in the morning, which prevented the afternoon half of the field from finishing their rounds on Thursday. Among the late starters, Justin Lower was 5 under through eight holes and Patrick Rodgers was 4 under through 13 when play was suspended because of darkness.

Matt Wallace — a winner last week in the Dominican Republic — shot 69 along with Garrick Higgo, Harry Higgs, Chez Reavie and Nick Taylor.

Daffue had the biggest finish. He holed a 27-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 17th hole. He hammered a 291-yard second shot to the back edge of the green on 18, and converted a 14-footer from the fringe for a 5-under 31 on the back nine.

“It was a jumper lie (on 18),” Daffue said, “and it was right at the max of my 7-wood and I said ‘I’m going to hit it. I’m feeling this one.’ It was a good day.”

The 34-year-old Daffue is seeking his first PGA TOUR victory. Diaz, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, finished with a 14-foot birdie.

Harrington and Kuchar are both seeking their first win this decade. Kuchar won twice in 2019. Harrington, who won four times last year on the PGA TOUR Champions, hasn’t won on the PGA TOUR since the Honda Classic in 2015. The three-time major champion’s most recent DP World Tour victory was the Portugal Masters in 2016.

This month, Harrington was announced as an inductee in the 2024 class to the World Golf Hall of Fame. The last time he was in the top three after his first round was at PGA National eight years ago, when he went on to win.

A victory this week would also get Harrington into the Masters for the second time since 2015; he missed the cut at Augusta National last year.

Harrington started on the back nine and ran off three straight birdies around the turn and two more on the fourth and fifth holes before closing with four straight pars.

Kuchar opened with a bogey on No. 10, then sat for more than two hours before the fog lifted. He made three birdies on the final five holes of his first nine, then converted 3-footers for birdie on Nos. 5 and 8.

“If you start playing some indifferent golf, this course can jump up and bite you,” Kuchar said. “I was lucky to get away with a couple of loose ones today. For the most part, my game is in some pretty good form and I enjoy this golf course a lot.”

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