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PGA Championship; Why not me? says early leader Corey Conners

Kiawah Island, United States: Canadian Corey Conners, taking confidence from two top-10 Masters finishes in the past six months, began Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship figuring somebody could seize command.

“I knew in my preparation it was possible to have a decent round, shoot a 5- or 6-under par round,” Conners said.

“So kind of started the day thinking, ‘Why not me?’”

Conners, chasing his first major title, fired a five-under par 67 to seize the 18-hole lead at windy Kiawah Island, what he called his most complete round of the year.

“It was a really special round. I did a lot of things really well,” Conners said. “I’m really pleased with the score.”

Conners, ranked 39th, was 10th at the Masters last November and eighth at Augusta National last month, when he fired a ho

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Against the blustery winds of Kiawah’s Ocean Course, Conners holed birdies from 32, 33 and 56 feet in a stunning display at a course that battered many of the world’s top players.

“It was really nice to see some mid-range birdie putts fall in the hole. Really gave me confidence,” Conners said. “Felt like I rolled it really well. A lot of putts had chances to go in and I made some nice saves, as well.”

Conners, 29, kept his cool when forced to play from the sand and handled major pressure as if it were more than his 10th major start.

“I definitely felt calm out there. It was fun,” he said. “Just trying to play solid golf, and I was able to do that so felt very comfortable, very calm out there.

“You can’t fall asleep out there on any holes. It’s very challenging. 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. Played with a lot of freedom.”

Conners, an NHL Toronto Maple Leafs fan hoping the team can win its first Stanley Cup since 1967, won’t lose sleep to watch them play this week as he concentrates on his own trophy bid.

“No chance of staying up ‘til the end of the game. I’ll be probably in bed before the third period starts,” he said.

Conners is confident it will be worth the sacrifice.

“Definitely I have a lot of belief in myself, and I’ve been playing well for quite a while,” he said. “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 and hopefully can keep that up the rest of the weekend.”

Leaderboard

(After first round)

67 - Corey Conners (CAN)

69 - Keegan Bradley, Viktor Hovland (NOR), Brooks Koepka, Aaron Wise, Sam Horsfield (ENG), Cam Davis (AUS)

70 - Cameron Tringale, Martin Laird (SCO), Collin Morikawa, Phil Mickelson, Branden Grace (RSA), Gary Woodland, Kevin Streelman, Im Sung-jae (KOR)

71 - Talor Gooch, Paul Casey (ENG), Rickie Fowler, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG), Jason Dufner, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Stewart Cink, Tom Lewis (ENG), Jason Kokrak, Richy Werenski, Joaquin Niemann (CHI), Padraig Harrington (IRL), Rasmus Hojgaard (DEN), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA), Will Zalatoris

72 - Adam Long, Harry Higgs, Scottie Scheffler, Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, Erik van Rooyen (RSA), Jon Rahm (ESP), Justin Rose (ENG), Cameron Smith (AUS), Ben Cook