Amidst all the chaotic content surrounding the launch of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series, Rory McIlroy has been adamant that he will remain loyal to the PGA Tour. Fitting, then, that he picked up his 21st PGA Tour victory just one day after the completion of the first LIV Golf Invitational event outside London.
Equally fitting, too, that the win came at the RBC Canadian Open, which was last played in 2019 and canceled each of the last two years due to COVID. That week's winner at Hamilton Golf and Country Club was McIlroy, who dusted Shane Lowry and Webb Simpson by seven strokes. His title "defense" at St. George's this week wasn't quite as dominant, margin wise, but it was just as scintillating to watch, and it's now made the Northern Irishman a heroic figure in Canada.
The chants of "Rory! Rory!" from the fans up north began early and often Sunday, as McIlroy went out in 29, something he'd never done on the front nine of a PGA Tour event his career. He came home in 33 to cap off an eight-under 62, one shot shy of matching his final-round 61 that won him this same event in 2019.
It was hardly an easy walk, though, as McIlroy was paired with reigning PGA champion Justin Thomas and two-time PGA Tour winner Tony Finau. They each shot 64s, both pushing McIlroy to the brink and forcing him to have to remain aggressive to the very end. McIlroy did just that, finishing birdie-birdie after a 16th-hole bogey that tied him with Thomas for the lead at 17 under. A pair of late bogeys from Thomas saw him finish four back in solo third, while Finau was able to lock up second all to himself with a late birdie.
Also giving chase was Justin Rose, who needed a par on the final hole to shoot the 13th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history. A poor approach shot into the 72nd green led to a bogey, though, and the Englishman finished with a 10-under 60, tying him for fourth with Sam Burns.
For McIlroy, this marked his 21st PGA Tour victory, moving him into a tie for 31st on the all-time wins list, along with World Golf Hall of Famers Davis Love III and Lanny Wadkins. Judging by the gigantic smile on his face during his post-round interview, that type of historical accomplishment means something to McIlroy. Judging by how he framed it afterward, it meant a little extra something, too.
"This is a day I'll remember for a long, long time," said McIlroy while the raucous Canadian crowd continued to cheer in the background. "Twenty-first PGA Tour win, one more than someone else. That gave me a little extra incentive today. Happy to get it done."
That “someone else?” Well, Greg Norman just so happens to have only 20 PGA Tour wins.
McIlroy, who now has three wins since the post-COVID restart, seems to be rekindling his pre-COVID form. Prior to the world shutting down, he had amassed six consecutive top-five finishes. After golf returned, he finished in the top five just once in his next 21 starts.
"I think after COVID and everything I needed a complete reset," he said. "Sort of rededicated myself to the game a little bit, sort of realized what made me happy. And this [winning] makes me happy."
Now, McIlroy will turn his attention to Brookline for the U.S. Open, where he'll look to end his nearly eight-year major drought and become just the 20th player to win five major championships. It's that type of historical accomplishment that would make McIlroy, and golf fans all over the globe, extremely happy.