Top 10 finish for Harrington as Conners takes victory at the Valero

Mark McGowan

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Padraig Harrington shot a closing one-under-par 71 to finish tied for 10th at the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio as Corey Conners held off rookie Sam Stevens to seal a one-stroke victory.

Harrington began the day five strokes behind 54-hole leader Patrick Rodgers, and knew that he’d need a low final round if there was any hope of capturing a seventh PGA Tour title at the age of 51, and a difficult task was made even harder when he’d bogey the par-5 second hole to drop back to -6. A dialed-in wedge helped him get back to level par for the day at the fifth, and he’d remain at -7 until the 12th.

For the next four holes it was a case of one step forward, one step back for the soon-to-be Hall of Famer as he’d birdie 12 and 14, but miss short par putts at 13 and 15. He’d get up-and-down from the greenside bunker at the drivable par-4 17th to get back into red figures and he’d par the last to shoot -1 for the day and -8 for the tournament, posting his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since the 2021 PGA Championship.


The Dubliner admitted earlier this week that he’s been battling a knee injury sustained during Covid lockdown, making it all the more impressive that he’s still able to mix it with the PGA Tour Young Guns at his age, and, having missed out on Masters qualification, the top-10 finish means that there’s a reasonable chance that he’ll get into the field at the RBC Heritage designated event the week after Augusta. That failing, he’ll turn his attention to the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in six week’s time.

Corey Conners had already secured his Masters invitation, but he’ll head for Augusta full of confidence after he won his second Valero Texas Open title having secured his maiden PGA Tour title at the same venue back in 2019.

Conners began the day one stroke behind leader Patrick Rodgers, and the Canadian never put a foot wrong as he shot a bogey-free four-under closing round to overtake the big man from Indiana, and held off a stern challenge from the 27-year-old Kansas rookie Sam Stevens.

Birdies at the second, sixth and ninth holes saw Conners open up a four-stroke lead at the turn as Rodgers bogeyed four of the opening nine holes. Still chasing his first PGA Tour win, the Rodgers fightback never materialised, and instead, it was Sam Ryder, playing alongside Harrington, and Stevens who’s lead the chase down the stretch.

Ryder shot a closing six-under 66 to get to -13, but Stevens’ late charge saw him eagle the 17th after driving it to nine feet and draining the putt. This took him to -14, one behind Conners and when the Canadian could only par 17, Stevens knew that a birdie at the par-5 last would give him a great chance of a playoff at least.

Unfortunately for the rookie, a pulled second shot ricocheted off the grandstands, leaving him an awkward chip from short left of the green, and despite a valiant effort, his eight-foot birdie putt missed on the low side. This meant that a par was good enough for Conners and he duly obliged, cleaning up a two-and-a-half-footer to seal his second PGA Tour title.

“Yeah, I’ve drawn from some of the experience I had here,” Conners said afterwards, “and really happy with the way that I hit the ball and got myself in position. Drove it great, hit a lot of really good iron shots. Yeah, just kept things simple, felt relaxed. It was certainly challenging and a battle out there, but just an amazing day and can’t believe it. It’s a relief that it’s over.”

Asked if he was aware that a par was all he needed at the last, Conners admitted that he had been able to see Stevens’ putt slide by. “I did, yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I wasn’t sure until that moment where he was at to be honest, I was just trying to focus on my game and just do what I can do. Hit a great drive down there and I saw the crowd reaction when he missed and obviously gave me a bit of a cushion.”

Meanwhile, there was positive news for Ryan Gerard and Nicolai Hojgaard who both earned temporary special membership for the remainder of the PGA Tour season, affording the latter the opportunity to put himself at the forefront of Luke Donald’s thoughts for the Ryder Cup by competing against stronger fields on a more regular basis.


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