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  1. Sports

Who is Corey Conners? Meet Valspar’s first-round leader

Corey Conners is your Valspar Championship leader. Not bad for a guy who thought he wouldn't be playing this week.
Corey Conners, right, prepares to putt at the 13th hole while playing the Copperhead Course on Thursday (3/8/18) during the first round of the Valspar Championship at the Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort in Palm Harbor. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

PALM HARBOR — The first-round leader of the Valspar Championship was expecting a week off this week.

Corey Conners, a PGA Tour rookie, made four birdies and one bogey for 4-under-par 67 Thursday on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort.

Here's what you need to know about Conners:

So much for that week off: Conners came into the week as the third alternate and shot 71 at the Monday qualifier, not good enough to make the field. He found out just after he finished the he got in when Kyle Stanley withdrew.

So you're saying there's a chance: The last alternate to win on tour was Vaughn Taylor at the 2016 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Before Thursday, Conners' best position after any round in 20 previous tour starts was tied for 21st at the Honda Classic two weeks ago.

Risk assessment: Conners, 26, is a native of Listowel, Ontario, hometown of NHL Hall of Famers George Hay and Cyclone Taylor. At Kent State, Conners studied actuary math, the study of the financial consequences of risk.

Risk of missing the cut: Conners has missed nine of 10 cuts this season, but things are looking up.

Quotable: "I usually got a good memory, I guess, so I take good notes and kind of remember what you want to do on each hole."


There is no way anybody could have predicted that Whee Kim would be tied for second after the first round. The South Korean, 26, has missed six consecutive cuts. In his only other two tournaments at Innisbrook, he withdrew in 2017 and finished tied for 53rd in 2016. He has not won on the PGA Tour in 88 previous starts.

"I think I did pretty good,'' Kim said.


Rory McIlroy struggled in his first trip around the Copperhead Course, shooting 3-over 74. … Defending champion Adam Hadwin shot par 71 and was four shots off the lead. His steady round had one birdie and one bogey. He made all pars on the back nine. … St. Petersburg's Jack Maguire was hanging around with 1-over 72. … Jordan Spieth has played five times at the Valspar Championship, and in his four times, he started the tournament at par or higher. He shot 5-over 76 Thursday.