Rory McIlroy successfully defended his RBC Canadian Open title on Sunday – and fired a shot at LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to celebrate. McIlroy completed a final round of eight-under par to secure the title with a sensational total score of 19-under amid the chaos of the inaugural LIV Golf event in London.
The controversial LIV Golf series made its anticipated debut at The Centurion Club in St Albans this weekend, with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia headlining a rogue field. Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, secured a one-stroke victory and a £3.86 million payout with a one-stroke victory.
The Saudi-backed LIV series is the most lucrative golf tournament in history. Its $25million (£20million) prize dwarfs the £7million on offer at the Canadian Open, which also got underway on Thursday. McIlroy – who has openly criticised those going to take part in the breakaway tour, including recent deflectors Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed – proved to be the champion the PGA Tour desperately needed.
At St. George’s Golf Course just outside Toronto, the contrast in the atmosphere at the differing PGA Tour and LIV Golf events was palpable. The Canadian fans excitedly cheered McIlroy to glory as he shot a stunning final round of 62 to successfully defend his title, whereas Schwartzel won the debut event in front of a fairly indifferent and frankly sparse crowd.
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When asked by CBS Sports’ Amanda Renner for what the moment meant to him after securing victory, McIlroy praised his rivals that delivered the entertainment while also firing a shot at LIV Golf frontman Norman. The Northern Irishman said: “Yeah, it’s incredible. Playing with Tony and JT today, two of the top players in the world, and just the way we played today – I think the worst score was six-under par.
“This is a day I’ll remember for a long, long time. My 21st PGA Tour win – one more than someone else – that gave me a little extra incentive today and I’m happy to get that.”
McIlroy, who became just the third player to successfully defend his title at the Canadian Open, made no mistake in revealing he had passed Norman’s mark of 20 PGA Tour titles. Ultimately, Sunday’s final round at the Canadian Open was a reminder of everything wrong with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series – three of the best players in the world going toe-to-toe.
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The final-round grouping of McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau with young star Sam Burns and veteran Justin Rose pushing made for pure sporting entertainment in a way money can’t buy. Fans often like to see legacy-defining moments over a purse or prize pot – and McIlroy revealed the moment made him ‘happy’ after refinding his form.
“I think after Covid and everything I just needed a complete rest,” the 33-year-old said. “I rededicated myself to the game and sort of realised what made me happy – and this makes me happy. So just put the work in, got a great team around me and they’re behind me 100% which makes it easier for me to go and do what I just did today.”
It was important for McIlroy, an outspoken critic of LIV Golf and one of the biggest stars in the sport, to secure the win. It means he will enter the US Open in hot form, while he is a month away from The Open Championship.