TORONTO – (AP) – Rory McIlroy won the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday and gave the PGA Tour a strong response at the start of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational, closing with an 8-under 62 to win a crazy race to the finish with Justin Thomas and Tony Finau.
McIlroy had his first title defense on the PGA Tour, although he had to wait. He won golf’s fourth-longest-running National Open in 2019 at Hamilton Golf & Country Club, only to have the COVID-19 pandemic cancel the next two editions.
Thomas pushed it all the way at St. George’s Golf & Country Club, and the tournament effectively ended on the 17th hole. McIlroy and Thomas were even and raw. McIlroy hit a corner that went within striking distance, while Thomas missed a 10-foot putt, a two-hit swing. Thomas closed with a pair of bogeys and still shot 64.
McIlroy finished at 19-under 261 for a two-stroke win.
“I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to win on the PGA Tour,” McIlroy said. “Just look at the two guys I played with today. I came out with a lead and had to shoot 8 under par to get the job done. So the depth of talent on this tour is really, really impressive. And going up against guys like JT and Tony and coming out on top is something that feels really good about.
Finau birdied a 40-footer putt on the 18th for a 64 to finish second alone.
“Rory played very well,” Finau said. “He closed it in and hats off to him for a week like this. It’s fantastic to play at the weekend. I played well, he just played a few shots better.
Thomas was third at 14 under. Justin Rose tied the tournament and course record with a 60 — with three eagles and three bogeys — to tie for fourth with Sam Burns (65) at 14 under.
A week before the US Open, the Canadian crowd was huge after being kept away since 2019, and thousands surrounded the 18th green as the trio of McIlroy, Thomas and Finau came to an end.
“It was really cool to be a part of it and I’m really happy to get the win today and obviously that sets me up well for next week in Boston,” McIlroy said. “But for now, I just want to enjoy it and focus on that.”
McIlroy has been one of the strongest opponents in the LIV Golf series and has spoken out against the money being paid to players like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Greg Norman, who runs LIV Golf, said in a Washington Post article that McIlroy was “brainwashed” by the PGA Tour.
McIlroy won for the second time this season, adding to his October victory in Las Vegas in the CJ Cup. He won for the 21st time on the PGA Tour.
“It’s a day I will remember for a long time,” McIlroy said shortly after the victory. “Twenty-one PGA Tour wins, one more than anyone else.”
It was a dig at Norman, who had 20 career wins.
McIlory repeated the jab later in his main interview session when his win tally and accomplishments were noted in his introduction, saying, “And one more than Norman.”
“I got extra motivation from what’s happening across the pond,” McIlroy said. “The guy running this tour has 20 PGA Tour wins and I was tied with him and wanted to get one ahead of him. And I did. So that was really cool for me, just kinda pride for that one.
Rose was at 11 under with three holes to play. He bugged on the 16th, hit 2-for-17 for a birdie, then went over the green on the 18th and missed a par putt from 18 feet. Carl Pettersson also shot 60 at St. George’s in their 2010 win.
“I’m totally disappointed, because you know what’s at stake, that’s for sure,” Rose said. “I’ve never shot 59 before, so that would have been a nice footnote to the week.”
He regretted hitting an 8-iron instead of a 9-iron on 18 with 159 pin yards.
“I don’t know what was in my control or not, but we were just between two clubs and I got the decision wrong and paid the price,” he said.
Corey Conners was the top Canadian, shooting a 62 to finish sixth at 12 under.
“I felt like I played really solid the last few days,” Conners said. Certainly, nice to have a round bass today. Very well done. Certainly, I felt it coming.
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