Rory McIlroy just has to fill out the paperwork and then he’ll be an honorary Canadian.
The Northern Irishman fired an 8-under 62 to win his second RBC Canadian Open with a two-stroke victory over Tony Finau of the United States to finish at 19-under overall. McIlroy was beloved by Canadian fans all week, with fans chanting his name at all 72 holes.
“If there was some honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed upon me I certainly wouldn’t turn it down,” said McIlroy with a laugh, the Canadian Open trophy sitting beside him.
“That would be a very proud thing for me. But, no, I’m happy to come up here once every now and again and play some golf and take this trophy south of the border with me.”
McIlroy also won the 2019 Canadian Open at Hamilton Golf and Country Club, his first ever professional event in Canada. The national men’s golf championship was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, making McIlroy a back-to-back champion — albeit three years apart.
Because the forecast predicted thunderstorms the final round of the Canadian Open had groups of three starting at the first and ninth tees.
McIlroy was with Finau and American Justin Thomas, both of whom threatened his third-round lead. Finau drained a birdie putt at 18 to finish two shots back of McIlroy and Thomas was four shots back of the winner.
“Super happy to defend, even though it doesn’t feel like a defence because it’s been so long,” said McIlroy. “And then just to play in a final group like that with that atmosphere all day. I mean the fans here this week have just been absolutely unbelievable.”
Fans rushed the fairway at St. George’s Golf and Country Club after McIlroy, Finau, and Thomas got on the 18th green. Security guards and police officers had to restrain the crowd as McIlroy sank a four-foot putt for birdie to seal the win.
He said the surge of spectators reminded him of when Tiger Woods won at East Lake in Atlanta in 2018. McIlroy was in the final group that day and said the feeling was comparable, even though this time he was the centre of attention.
“It was pretty raucous out there, but it’s really cool,” he said. “Whenever that happens and you can enjoy your walk and you know you’ve got the tournament sewn up you can take it in and really relish it and enjoy it.”
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., won the Rivermead Cup as the lowest scoring Canadian pro at the event. He fired an 8-under 62 to finish at 12 under and take sixth.
England’s Justin Rose shot a 10-under 60 for the best round of the tournament. He said he was disappointed that he missed out on a 59 even as he was pleased with his fourth-place performance overall.
“You’re really just playing the last hole — I never shot 59 before — so it would have been a lovely footnote on the week,” said Rose, who suggested he may have chosen the wrong club on the 18th hole. “I don’t know how much was in my control or not.”
The start of the tournament was overshadowed by several big name players defecting from the PGA Tour to the new rival LIV Golf Invitational.
The Saudi-backed league is being run by Greg Norman, who had 20 career wins on the PGA Tour. It ran its inaugural event at the Centurion Club outside London, England, from Thursday to Saturday in direct opposition to the Canadian Open.
“I had extra motivation of what’s going on across the pond,” said McIlroy. “The guy that’s spearheading that tour has 20 wins on the PGA Tour and I was tied with him and I wanted to get one ahead of him. And I did.
“So that was really cool for me, just a little sense of pride on that one.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2022
By John Chidley-Hill in Toronto