Rory McIlroy fends off fellow stars, defends at RBC Canadian Open
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McIlroy wins 21st TOUR event, says: 'Three of the best players in the world going at it down the stretch, trying to win in front of those crowds and that atmosphere … it doesn’t get much better than that.'
Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
Rory McIlroy wins 21st PGA TOUR title at RBC Canadian
TORONTO, Ont. – At the RBC Canadian Open media day in May, tournament organizers said their only wish for the event’s first playing since 2019 was for Mother Nature to cooperate.
They got that – Sunday’s predicted storms blew through with minimal impact – and lots more.
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Propelled by rabid fan support throughout the week, Rory McIlroy successfully defended his 2019 title with a final-round, 8-under 62 at St. George’s G&CC and 19-under total. He topped Tony Finau by two shots and Justin Thomas, who was in the final trio with Finau and McIlroy, by four.
“It feels really good,” said McIlroy. “For the Canadian Open, a national championship, to have a week like it's had, three of the best players in the world going at it down the stretch, trying to win in front of those crowds and that atmosphere … it doesn’t get much better than that.”
The victory marked McIlroy’s 21st TOUR title and his first successful title defense. In the process, he became the first TOUR pro to defend his title at two different courses (Jim Furyk was the last, winning the RBC Canadian Open in 2006 and 2007).
In 2019, McIlroy carded a final-round 61 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, and he was trending towards another low finisher right out of the gate on Sunday. He shot a 5-under 29 for his first nine holes, and he then made birdie on Nos 10-12.
The two-time FedExCup champion said his fast start was key to finding the winner’s circle this week. He birdied the first hole of the day and his approach on the par-4 fourth, he said, was the best shot he hit all day, even though he chipped in for birdie just two holes later.
“After that I just went on this run, and once you see a few birdies go in early, all you're thinking about is making more,” said McIlroy. “And I just got a little bit of momentum on my side and sort of carried that through the rest of the front nine and obviously into the start of the back nine as well.”
McIlroy closed with birdies on the final two holes as well. For his 72nd-hole effort, the ropes were dropped and the Canadian faithful showed McIlroy plenty of love.
“I mean the fans here this week have just been absolutely unbelievable,” said McIlroy. “Like so good and so cool to play in an atmosphere like that. Boisterous, loud, but respectful. It was really, really cool. That's as top-notch as you're going to get.
“It was a pleasure to be a part of and I'll look back on this week and this, especially today, with very, very fond memories.”
McIlroy’s 62 tied the lowest final round by a winner on TOUR this season.
And he did it with a fill-in caddie.
Longtime friend Niall O’Connor took the bag with Harry Diamond, McIlroy’s usual looper, at home for the birth of his second child.
O’Connor caddied for McIlroy once before, at the 2019 DP World Tour Championship, where they finished fourth. Add that to a first-place result this week and McIlroy was chuffed with his pal’s performance.
“Any time that he needs to fill in for Harry, I'm feeling pretty confident about that,” said McIlroy with a smile.
Given O’Connor was just a fill-in this week, it forced McIlroy to do some of the heavy lifting on his own, no pun intended, when it came to dialing in his yardages.
He said he doesn’t usually pace out his yardages or write down notes in his book. McIlroy admitted he’s “gotten away” from that and relies on Diamond for most of those numbers. Turns out the change was beneficial.
“(Thomas) and I were having lunch beforehand today and I was like, I had my head in my book a lot more today and was really into my shots and into my golf,” said McIlroy. “Honestly, I think that helped.”
Three years go by, the world changes, but as far as the RBC Canadian Open champion, history – much to the happiness of tournament organizers and Canadian golf fans – repeated itself this week.
“I think it had all the ingredients,” said McIlroy. “It had the golf course. It had the cast of players that you would want to be up there. It had the caliber of golf. And it had the atmosphere. You had everything this week to have a really top-class golf event. As I said, being a part of it, it doesn't get much better than that.”
McIlroy wasn’t the only winner this week, as Corey Conners claimed his first Rivermead Cup as low Canadian. He finished at 12 under and was sixth – his third top-10 finish of the season.
“Obviously there's another trophy that we're all out here playing for, so hopefully someday can get my name on that one as well,” said Conners, “but it feels really special.”