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'21st PGA Tour victory, one more than someone else' - Majestic McIlroy defends Canadian Open title

The Holywood native shot a final-round 62 and took a swipe at LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman on a thrilling Sunday in Toronto.

McIlroy celebrates his 21st PGA Tour title.
McIlroy celebrates his 21st PGA Tour title.
Image: Frank Gunn

RORY MCILROY FIRED 10 birdies in an eight-under-par 62 on Sunday to win the US PGA Tour Canadian Open by two strokes, defending the title he won in 2019.

The Holywood, Co. Down native survived some tense moments on the back nine, closing with birdies at the 17th and 18th to seal the victory with a 19-under-par total of 261.

Shane Lowry, meanwhile, shot a four-under-par final round to finish nine under for the tournament, tied for 10th.

American Tony Finau, who started the day tied for lead, carded his sixth birdie of the day at 18 for a six-under 64 that put him alone in second on 263 — one stroke in front of compatriot Justin Thomas.

Thomas was tied for the lead with two to play, but closed with back-to-back bogeys in a 64 for 265.

“This is a day I’ll remember for a long, long time,” McIlroy said as fans — who poured onto the fairway to surround the final trio on the 18th green — cheerfully chanted his name.

canadian-open-golf Rory McIlroy, front right, tees off on the 16th hole as Justin Thomas, center, and Tony Finau, center left, look on. Source: AP/PA Images

While soaking in the moment, McIlroy took a not-so-subtle swipe at Aussie golfing great Greg Norman, CEO of the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV tour, after a tumultuous week in his sport.

“It’s incredible,” McIlroy told Sky Sports. “Playing with Tony and JT today, two of the best players in the world and all of us playing the way we did… I mean, I think the worst score of the group was, whatever, six under par?

21st PGA Tour win, one more than someone else: that gave me a little bit of extra incentive today and I’m happy to get it done.

“I think after Covid and everything, I needed a complete reset. Sort of re-dedicated myself to the game a little bit, sort of realised what made me happy. And this makes me happy.”

This weekend was McIlroy’s first chance to defend the title he won in 2019 after the Covid pandemic forced cancellation of the event in 2020 and 2021.

He set an early tone with a 26-foot birdie at the first. He added a four-footer at the fourth, then chipped in at the sixth and made a short birdie at the seventh — then got really hot with birdies at the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th — where he poured in a 39-footer.

But Thomas wouldn’t let him get away. After a birdie at the second the American birdied six in a row from the sixth through the 11th. His birdie at 14 — after McIlroy bogeyed 13, saw the Northern Ireland star’s lead cut to one stroke.

After McIlroy bogeyed 16 they were tied at 17-under — but McIlroy finished with a flourish as Thomas faded and Finau drained a 40-foot putt at the 72nd hole to snatch solo second.

canadian-open-golf McIlroy is congratulated by PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan. Source: AP/PA Images

England’s Justin Rose provided a curtain-raiser to the final-group fireworks on the par-70 St George’s Golf and Country club course in suburban Toronto.

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Rose flirted with the 13th sub-60 round in PGA tour history, but a bogey at 18 saw him settle for a tournament record-equalling 10-under par 60.

Rose launched his round in spectacular style with a hole-out for birdie from the fairway at the first. He added a seven-foot birdie at the second, a two-footer at the fifth and a chip-in at the seventh before a bogey at the ninth, where he was in a fairway bunker.

The push continued on the back nine with a 17-foot birdie at the 10th, a 30-foot eagle at the 11th and a two-foot birdie at the 12th after a chip from deep rough.

He rolled in a six-footer at the 14th before his third eagle of the day at 15 moved him to 11-under. But Rose was unable to get up and down from a greenside bunker at 16.

Even so he was back to 11-under after a birdie at the 17th, but after his tee shot trickled just off the fairway at 18 his second shot flew the green and he closed with a bogey.

Rose — who had a real chance not only at 59 but even at Jim Furyk’s PGA record of 58 — admitted it was a disappointing finish “because you know what’s at stake, for sure.

“I never shot 59 before, so it would have been a lovely footnote on the week,” added Rose, who finished tied for fourth with Sam Burns, five shots off the lead.

– © AFP 2022

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