Rory McIlroy heads into this week’s US Open in the best possible form after successfully defending his RBC Canadian Open title in Toronto.
It had taken three years due to the strict Covid lockdown measures in Canada since McIlroy won the 2019 event on debut and now after a sizzling closing day 62, he’s a repeat champion winning by two shots at 19-under.
McIlroy is also only the fourth player since WW2 to successfully defend this year’s 111th hosting of the Canadian Open, and with victory likely to see him move up two spots and back to World No. 5.
“It’s in an incredible win and to be playing alongside two of the top players in the world in JT and Tony, and all of us playing the way with did as the worst score in the group was six-under-par, well this is a day I will remember for a long, long time,” he said.
“It’s my 21st PGA Tour win and one more than someone else (Australia’s Greg Norman and CEO of Liv Golf) as that gave me a little bit more extra incentive today, so happy to get it done.
“I think also after Covid and everything I needed a complete reset. I also sort of rededicated myself to the game a little bit. I sort I realised what made me happy, and this makes me happy”.
Unlike winning by seven shots three years ago, McIlroy won the hard way, moving clear of his challenges before a 16th hole bogey put him back into a tie at 17-under with close friend Justin Thomas.
Thomas, however, found the rough off the tee at 17 and with McIlroy, after a massive 367-yard drive over trees that left him just 125-yards hole, calmly put his second shot to three-feet to what proved a winning birdie, and then sealed victory with a 72nd hole birdie..
With Thomas walking off with a second straight bogey it was a two-shot swing in McIlroy’s favour, as Tony Finau also birdied the last in a score of 64 to grab second at 17-under and Thomas settling for a round of 65 for third place at 15-under.
And then there was England’s Justin Rose looking for all intentions of breaking 60 in posting three eagles and six birdies through 15 holes, and lying at 11-under but finishing bogey, birdie and eagle in a score of 60 to eventually share fourth place at 14-under with American Sam Burns (65).
The win is McIlroy’s 31st of his pro career, a 21st on the PGA Tour but the first time he’s successfully defended since a maiden ‘play-for-cash’ success early in 2009.
McIlroy got the final day start he desperately needed to race to a two-shot lead thanks to five birdies in his outward nine holes for a score of just 29 and move to then 16-under on the St. George’s course.
McIlroy birdied his first and fourth holes and then really put the foot down sending a booming 357-yard drive down the par-5 fifth, landing his drive some 30-yards further down the ‘short stuff’ than Finau and Thomas.
The four-time major winning McIlroy left his birdie putt right on the edge of the cup but he was dead centre into the cup when chipping-in from 32-feet for at the par-3 sixth hole and the third birdie of his round.
The mainly pro-McIlroy crowd erupted to birdie chanting: “Rory, Rory, Rory”.
And he had them singing at the next, the par-4 seventh in holing a four-footer to make it four birdies in seven holes, and one birdie fewer than three years ago when McIlroy set-up his seven-shot success thanks to blistering last round 61.
The ‘Rory, Rory’ chorus continued with McIlroy landing a greenside bunker shot to just three-feet at the 10th for the sixth birdie of his day, and he made is seven birdies in 11 holes with a second
McIlroy made it four birdies in succession, holing a two-footer at 11 and then holed an incredible 40-footer at the next, the par-4 12th however a three-putt bogey at the par-3 13th checked his progress while a second bogey at 16 had him back at level ahead of his phenomenal closing two holes
Shane Lowry, and who had been joint runner-up to McIlroy three years ago, produced a closing round 66, to make it four rounds in the 60s, and share 10th place at nine-under.
Lowry capped his round holing a 13-foot putt for an eagle ‘3’ at the 11th along with five birdies, including back-to-back birdies at 15 and 16 but it was bogeys 12, 14 and 17 that hurt the Clara golfer. Regardless, it is Lowry’s fourth top-10 in his 13th PGA start this wraparound season.
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