Rory McIlroy hit a superb final round of 62 to retain his RBC Canadian Open title before taking aim at Greg Norman, the figurehead of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series.
McIlroy, who started the day in a share of the lead with Tony Finau, hit 10 birdies in his eight-under-par round to finish two shots clear of the American on 19 under and land his 21st PGA Tour crown. That is one more than Norman, the CEO of the breakaway LIV series, managed in his career.
“This is a day I’ll remember for a long, long time,” McIlroy said on CBS immediately after his victory at St George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto. “Twenty-first PGA Tour win, one more than someone else – that gave me a little extra incentive today and happy to get it done.”
McIlroy, who finished with back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th, doubled down on his criticism in the ensuing press conference. When the moderator introduced the world No 8, saying he had won a PGA Tour title for the 21st time, McIlroy interjected: “And one more than Norman.”
McIlroy added: “I had [the] extra motivation of what’s going on across the pond. The guy that’s spearheading that tour has 20 wins on the PGA Tour. I was tied with him and I wanted to get one ahead of him. And I did. So, that was really cool for me, just a little sense of pride on that one.”
He continued: “It’s incredible, playing with Tony [Finau] and JT [Justin Thomas, who came third] today, two of the top players in the world and all of just playing the way we did.
“I think after Covid I just needed a complete reset, sort of rededicated myself to the game a little bit. Sort of realised what made me happy, and this makes me happy.”
Sunday also saw the PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan, offer his first public thoughts on the breakaway series since he announced he was suspending all PGA Tour members who joined.
Monahan declined to say how long the suspension would last but offered a scathing assessment of the series in a 12-minute appearance on CBS during the Canadian Open. Describing LIV Golf as nothing more than a series of exhibition matches, Monahan said that true, pure competition was found at the PGA Tour.
“I would ask any player that has left, or any player that would ever consider leaving: ‘Have you ever had to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour?’” Monahan added.
Monahan also suggested that players who had joined the new tour were essentially cashing in on status that the PGA Tour had provided for them. When asked why players such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau could not play both tours, he answered with a question of his own.
“Why do they need us so badly?” Monahan said. “Those players have chosen to sign multiyear, lucrative contracts to play in a series of exhibition matches against the same players over and over again. You look at that versus what we see here today.”
One day after LIV Golf finished its 54-hole event with Charl Schwartzel winning $4.75m ($4m for his score, $750,000 as part of the winning team), the Canadian Open had enormous crowds with thousands surrounding the 18th green as McIlroy and Finau finished their rounds.
“It’s true and pure competition that creates the profiles and presences of the world’s greatest players,” Monahan said. “And that’s why they need us. That’s what we do.”