In recent years, the list of PGA Championship winners has been bereft of foreign names. For the past five years, American golfers have dominated the PGA Championship odds, winning the tournament five years in a row. The last foreign national to capture the tournament was Australian Jason Day in 2015.
Between 2004-15, there were seven non-American winners, including Day, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (2012, 2104), Germany’s Martin Kaymer (2010), South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun (2009), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (2008), and Fiji’s Vijay Singh (2004).
What’s never happened in the history of a tournament that began in 1916 is a win by a Canadian golfer. That situation, though, could be about to change. When the world’s best golfers tee it up May 20-23 for the 2021 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course of the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Charleston, South Carolina, Canada’s Corey Conners of Listowel, Ontario is expected to be among the leading contenders to win the tournament.
“Corey Conners” by Andrew Redington/Getty is licensed under CC BY 3.0
On The Verge Of Greatness
Naturally, being a Canadian town, the most famous athlete from Listowel is a hockey player. Hockey Hall of Famer George Hay played in the NHL for Chicago and Detroit, scoring the first goal in Blackhawks history.
If Conners were to win one of golf’s four majors, would it vault him into first place? Hard to say. It is Canada after all. Then again, Bright’s Grove, Ontario instantly was put on the international map when Canada’s Mike Weir won the Masters in 2003.
Conners won the 2010 Ontario Amateur and was runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Amateur. That earned him his first shot in a major. He missed the cut at the 2015 Masters.
Lately, though, Conners has been in striking distance of the top spot on the leaderboard of several PGA Tour events. He was third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, seventh in The Players Championship, and tied for fourth at the RBC Heritage Classic. Conners has recorded seven top-10 finishes during the season. He’s 14th in FedEx Cup standings and has scored a bankroll of $3,083,837 in earnings.
In 2019, he won the Valero Texas Open as a Monday qualifier, emerging as the victor from a six-player playoff. He was the first Monday qualifier to win a PGA Tour event since 2010.
That earned Conners a return trip to the Masters. This time, he made noise at Augusta National. He finished tied for 10th. Touted as a golfer to watch heading into this year’s Masters, Conners ended up tied for eighth.
“Corey Conners” by golfcanada.ca is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Weir is the gold standard when it comes to Canadian golfers in golf majors. As the only Canadian to win a major, he’d already stand out in the crowd. But Weir accomplished so much more than that one memorable victory. He recorded 11 top 10s in major events. That included three top-10 finishes in the PGA Championship. Weir was tied for 10th in 1999, tied for seventh in 2003, and tied for sixth in 2006.
Graham DeLaet is the Canadian who came the closest to winning the PGA Championship in recent years. He finished tied for seventh in 2017. Stephen Ames tied for ninth in 2004. In 1993, Richard [Disco Dick] Zokol, ended up in a tie for 14th. Back in 1982, Dan Halldorson was tied for 16th.
Legendary Canadian golfer George Knudson, whose tie for second at the 1969 Masters held forth as the best performance by a Canadian in a major until Weir’s win at Augusta National, never fared well in the PGA Championship. His top effort was a tie for 20th in 1965. Al Balding, another Canadian golfing legend, never teed it up in the PGA Championship.
Last year, Adam Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes both tied for 58th in the PGA Championship. Hadwin was tied for 29th in 2019.
Is It Conner’s Time?
Conners hasn’t exactly lit it up in past PGA Championship tournaments. In 2019, he was tied for 64th. Last year, he missed the cut.
Conners certainly believes in himself. “I have a lot of confidence right now,” he told CTV News. “It’s definitely, as good as I’ve ever felt about my game for sure.
“I’m feeling more comfortable on the golf course and sticking to my routine, trusting the process and my game plan, and then been a lot more consistent on the greens as well.”