May 20, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, welcome back to the 2021 PGA Championship here at The Ocean Course. Pleased to be joined by first-round leader Corey Connor, who opened with a stellar 5-under 67 today.
Stress-free, perhaps? Is that even possible? Were you stressing? How did you feel out there?
COREY CONNERS: I'd say it's impossible to be stress-free around this golf course. You can't fall asleep out there on any holes. It's very challenging. Yeah, I was fortunate to have a good day. Made it as least stressful as possible on myself. I hit a lot of really good shots and holed some nice putts early in the round, and that really helped boost the confidence. You know, played with a lot of freedom.
Q. If someone told you before the round that you would shoot a 5-under 67 in these conditions, what would you have thought?
COREY CONNERS: I'd have thought I have -- I would have played really well. Would have been pumped with that round. I am really pleased with the score. I definitely knew in my preparation that it was possible to have a decent round out here and shoot a 5-, 6-under par round.
So kind of started the day thinking, why not me. There's birdies to be had. Just play with patience. You know, take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
Q. I know you're a big hockey fan. Will you stay up till the end of the game tonight, and what time do you have to get up in the morning for your round?
COREY CONNERS: I have no chance of staying up till the end of the game. I'll be probably in bed by -- before the third period starts. Be getting up probably just before 5:00 for my round in the morning.
Q. And just quickly, what club did you hit on the last? That looked to have the pin covered the whole way.
COREY CONNERS: It was nice. 3-hybrid.
Q. Is this the most complete round you've played this year, do you think? You seemed to get everything out of every part of your bag.
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, I would -- I would say so. I think there's nothing that I want to do differently. I didn't really make any mistakes out there. I played solid all through the bag like you said. A lot of good putts. Drove it well, ironed it well and got up-and-down a couple times really nicely.
Q. You'll be glad to know the golf courses are open here.
COREY CONNERS: I just heard an inkling of that. I wasn't sure it was true. But that's awesome. Good to hear.
Q. On 15, what did you see on that putt and just how big was it to get that birdie?
COREY CONNERS: It was obviously a big bonus. I hit a good shot in there. Just came up a little bit short. I hit a few putts from off the green throughout the round and was hitting them well. They were rolling nicely but just running out of speed towards the end so tried to be aggressive. It was a double- or triple-breaking putt. I saw the line really well. I'd actually hit a couple of shots there yesterday and knew what the putt did and had some confidence and made sure to give it enough juice and it rolled in. It looked good the whole way. That was a pretty exciting shot.
Q. Any predictions who will score for the Leafs tonight?
COREY CONNERS: I think Matthews is a pretty sure bet. I like his chances to pop one. I'm excited to watch a bit of the game.
Q. Given the circumstances, the major, the conditions, you've won and had great round on Tour, where does this round rate for you in terms of how good this was across the board?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, it was a really special round. I did a lot of things really, really well. Like I said before, it's really nice to see some mid-range birdie putts fall in the hole. Really gave me confidence and felt like I rolled it really well for the rest of the round. A lot of putts had chances to go in and I made some nice saves, as well.
Q. Did you see this coming at all? You've had some really good results without winning so far. Masters you played well, PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP, Arnold Palmer and stuff. You've played well in some high-profile events. Is this something you've seen coming at all?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, definitely I have a lot of belief in myself, and I've been playing well for quite a while. I'm excited for opportunity to play against the best players in the world and put my game to the test. I have a lot of confidence in my game and I'm excited for the rest of the weekend. Didn't try to force it to happen but definitely saw myself having a good day today and hopefully can keep that up the rest of the weekend.
Q. Given the restrictions at home, have you based yourself in the U.S. during the pandemic? Have you gone back to Ontario at all?
COREY CONNERS: My wife and I live in Jupiter, Florida. We've been there for the last few years. We did go back to Ontario to see our family in Listowel over Christmas. That was the only time we've been back in the last year. Wish we could go back a little easier but we've based ourselves in Florida for most of the time.
Q. Would you have been subject to the same restrictions as others?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah.
Q. Or would you be exempt?
COREY CONNERS: No exemption. When we went back at Christmas we had to quarantine for 14 days on our own and we did that, and we were able to have a few days of freedom, I guess, and see some family members.
Q. Your ball-striking stats this year are excellent and the putting has become a little more difficult. I think you picked up almost four today. How encouraged are you by that and how much of your preparation is focused on putting?
COREY CONNERS: I've seen glimmers of good putting in certain events throughout this year and I've worked really hard on my putting. I have a good feeling with the stroke I worked on last week at home, and I definitely devote a lot of my time trying to improve that part of my game.
It's held me back a little bit, I would say, over the last few years, and it's definitely becoming more consistent and fine-tuning it week-by-week, and definitely have a lot more confidence right now.
Q. A lot of the chatter coming into the tournament was it's a ball-striker's course, it's a ball-striker's course. Did you hear that chatter and does it get you more excited?
COREY CONNERS: It does a little bit. I think one of most important things is the short game around this place. A lot of major championships you can't ball-strike your way to good rounds. You need to have a good short game. You need to get the ball up-and-down and you need to roll in birdie putts. Good ball-striking definitely helps. The wind and difficulty of the golf course, hitting it solid is very important.
But you're going to get in spots where you need to get the ball up-and-down and hole a putt or two, and you need to be able to do that, as well.
Q. The last five holes are not really birdie holes. You played them in 2-under. Were you comfortable with those holes all week or happen to light it up?
COREY CONNERS: Yeah, just hit some nice shots. I knew those holes are difficult. As soon as you make the turn back into the wind on 14, the last few holes, they are all beasts. You don't really get any short clubs in your hand. You've got to hit solid shots or you're going to pay the price.
The last few days in my preparation I've focused a lot on those shots and felt comfortable out there and was able to hit some good ones today. Hopefully that's something I can draw on for the rest of the weekend.
Q. Are you as calm on the inside as you look on the outside, and do you think there's any truth that a person's personality and golf swing have a lot in common?
COREY CONNERS: I'm not sure. I definitely felt calm out there. It was fun. It's fun to hit good shots; it's fun to give yourself birdie chances and fun to roll in putts. I was having a good time with my caddie, Danny. We were -- yeah, just trying to continue to play solid golf, and I was able to do that so felt very comfortable, very calm out there.
I'm not really sure the golf swing and personality reference, but I think mine, kind of smooth tempo in the golf swing and pretty chill personality.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming, terrific day for you, and more for the weekend.
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