Rory McIlroy was playing the RBC Canadian Open for the first time, but he knew early on what the tournament required. “It's a very strategic golf course,” McIlroy said during his Wednesday pre-tournament presser. “You've got to put it in play off the tee. I'm definitely going to have to drive it better this week than I did last week.”
Come Sunday, McIlroy was in the winner’s circle, after rounds of 67-66-64-61 for a 258 total and a eight-shot victory over Shane Lowry and Webb Simpson at Hamilton Golf & Country Club in Ontario.
As he predicted, McIlroy needed to play well off the tee, and he did just that, ranking first in the event in strokes gained/off the tee, picking up nearly seven shots on the field. Although it was no surprise McIlroy led the field in driving distance at 324.4 yards, the fact he was T-6 in accuracy was an eye-opener, given that he came into the event ranked 154th on tour in that stat. Nowhere was his prowess with the driver more evident than on the par-5 17th hole when he blasted a tee shot 341 yards down the center of the fairway, followed by a 7-iron to inside three feet for an easy eagle, which gave him an opportunity for a 59 with a birdie at the 72nd hole, but he ended with a bogey, still good for that eight-stroke margin.
McIlroy uses a 9-degree TaylorMade M5 driver with a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White shaft. The club features multiple technologies, including a face brought beyond the USGA limit for springlike effect and then injected with a resin to bring it back to conformance. The driver also features Twist Face technology, where the face is curved more open on the high toe and more closed on the low heel area to help mitigate the effect of off-center strikes. McIlroy also took advantage of the adjustable aspects of the club, setting the movable weights in the rear of the center track and in the heel of the track that runs along the perimeter (which produces a slight draw bias).
Not that it was all about the tee ball for the four-time major champion. As his final tune-up before next week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, McIlroy had to be heartened by the fact each aspect of his game was clicking in Canada. He ranked fourth in strokes gained/approach the green (and second in greens in regulation) with his split set of TaylorMade irons and was sixth in strokes gained/putting with his TaylorMade Spider X putter. His ball is TaylorMade’s 2019 version of its TP5 with the number 22. McIlroy told Golf Digest the meaning behind using the number back in 2017.
“The number has a dual meaning. I married Erica Stoll on April 22 and the number 22 means powerful and high risk, high reward, and that’s sort of everything I am on the golf course,” he said.
Yet while McIlroy certainly had Pebble Beach somewhat on his mind, he was very much aware of the significance of adding another national title to his U.S. Open and British Open wins. “Obviously this isn't just a preparation week,” he said. “This is a very prestigious tournament, one of the oldest tournaments in the world that I would dearly love to be able to add my name to. I'm fully focused on this week, but knowing that if I play well here, this week, and have good control of my ball and my distance control, that that will serve me well going into next week.”
After his performance in Canada, that notice has clearly been served to those playing at Pebble Beach.
What Rory McIlroy had in the bag at the RBC Canadian Open:
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
Driver: TaylorMade M5 (Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70), 9 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M6, 15 degrees
5-wood: TaylorMade M5, 19 degrees
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Hi-Toe (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X