SANDWICH, England — Corey Conners is a relative newcomer to links golf and has two missed cuts on this style of course. So, understandably, he likely would not have been a player picked to win the British Open or even be in contention through 54 holes.
But the 29-year-old Canadian sits on the Royal St. George's leaderboard at 8-under 202 after a bogey-free 66 that was his third straight sub-70 round. And he's excited about his final-round prospects, despite having little links experience and trailing leader Louis Oosthuizen by four strokes.
“Well, in mathematical terms I feel like it's likely,” said Conners, who is tied for fourth with Scottie Scheffler. “I feel ready. I'm going to be a little bit behind starting tomorrow, but I like where my game is at.”
Though four strokes back of the lead, Conners has only Oosthuizen, Colin Morikawa at 11 under and Sunday playing partner Jordan Spieth at 9 under to jump — though all three are major winners.
Conners' first links golf experience was the 2019 British Open at Royal Portrush. He was unsure of what to expect and it didn’t go well. He missed the cut, but the takeaway was great. He understands that links golf is about hitting from uneven lies and stances, keeping the ball down and putting from off the greens that are slower than on the PGA Tour.
He took such a liking to the style of game played along the ground that he spent a lot of time improving his links skills with his coach Derek Ingram back home at the Bear’s Club and Dye’s Preserve in Jupiter, Fla. He practiced putting from long distances off the green and worked on bump-and-run shots.
“I always thought my game was well suited for links golf being in good control of my golf ball,” Conners said. “Hitting the ball solidly in the wind and using some creativity with the putter off the greens and whatever is required.”
When he arrived in Great Britain, he believed he was ready. In the days leading up to last week's Scottish Open, Conners practiced three times in the rain and honed his putting on the Renaissance Club's slow greens. He shot an opening-round 76.
“The course dried up a little bit and I was just throttling every putt,” Conners said. “Three-putted all the par 4s on the front nine basically and made bogey on them all and that had some negative mojo going there and I kind of reset for the next round.”
He rebounded with a second-round 65, but still missed the cut.
Conners left and headed for Sandwich, where, without clubs, he walked all 18 holes at Royal St. George’s on Sunday. He wanted to get a better understanding of how his ball would react on the humps and bumps. .
“I felt I was ready for anything starting the week,” Conners said. “Felt like I had a great game plan, I felt I knew the course really really well and there wasn’t going to be anything I wasn’t expecting.”
He might have been the only one expecting him to be in contention after 54 holes.
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