McIlroy finally defends Canadian Open; Lowry primed to end winless drought

Ronan MacNamara

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry are in action at the RBC Canadian Open on the PGA Tour this week with both players looking to bounce back from disappointing weekends at the Memorial last time out.

McIlroy and Lowry were within striking distance of the lead at the halfway stage but faded over the weekend as Billy Horschel romped to victory at Jack’s place.

McIlroy finished in a share of 18th and after Covid wreaked havoc on the Canadian Open, he is back to “defend” the title he won three years ago at St George’s Golf and Country Club.

The Holywood native was far from his best over the weekend and will be looking for a boost as he prepares for next week’s US Open at Brookline.

The four-time major champion has won the week before a Major in the past – the mind casts back to that glittering stretch of Open, WGC Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in 2014 – and while he is still without a win in 2022, now seems as good a time as ever.

On paper, a tree-lined par-70 doesn’t exactly play into McIlroy’s wheelhouse but taking into account that there are three par fives and there has been a deluge of rain to soften the course, it might play more into his hands.

“National Opens are a big deal in our game, the Canadian Open is no different,” said McIlroy earlier this week. “Regardless of winning this tournament I had an unbelievable experience [in 2019].”

McIlroy romped to victory by seven strokes three years ago in one of those vintage performances we probably don’t get as often as we would like and we haven’t really seen since golf came back from the pandemic in 2020.

It was the fourth time Rory won by seven shots or more. When he wins he has the capability to win big and demolish fields like he did in his pomp.

Five of the world’s top-10 are in attendance in an extremely lopsided field where perhaps we are getting a glimpse into the future of how LIV Golf will effect the lower half of PGA Tour fields.

Shane Lowry might not occupy one of the top-10 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings but on form he has been one of the standout players this season.

It’s almost three years since the Offaly man last lifted silverware, that fantastic day in Portrush when he won the Claret Jug. Since then there have been a series of near-misses particularly over the last twelve months.

It seems a matter of when, rather than if, Lowry lands his third PGA Tour title and first proper tour win and he has come close here before finishing in a share of second place when Rory won in 2019.

The Clara native has three top-3 finishes to his name this season. A runner-up finish at the Honda Classic where mother nature ruled against him, and a third place finish at the Masters and RBC Heritage in successive weeks would suggest he is close to breaking into the winners’ enclosure again.

Lowry is solid in all facets of the game and with some of the smallest greens on tour measuring at 4,000 sq feet, his laser-like approach play will be key to accessing the tight pin locations.

Lowry is ranked first for scrambling on the PGA Tour while he is nicely perched inside the top-15 in putting, a part of his game that has seen great improvement since he switched to a conventional grip.

There will be plenty of local pride on show as fans and players alike have waited three years for another home event. Corey Conners has shown up well on the big occasion over the last 18 months.

The big-hitting Canadian still has just one PGA Tour win to his name despite coming close at the Players and Arnold Palmer Invitational in the last year or so.

There has been no Canadian winner of this event since 1954 and Adam Hadwin and Mackenzie Hughes round off a talented pool of home players who will be aiming to end that drought.

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