At the weekend, Rory McIlroy defended his title in Canada at the RBC Canadian Open with a fabulous final round. The Northern Irishman had to wait three years for this chance due to corona – and now he used it. With a two-stroke lead, he now holds the Canadian trophy in his hands for the second time. After a few weeks in which he always placed well, but was never enough for the top, McIlroy is particularly pleased about the victory.
McIlroy on the 18th green
You’ve waited probably the longest of anyone in golf history to defend a title, three years. What’s it like to get your name on this trophy with the names like Snead and Palmer and Trevino and Tiger and now for the second time your name?
McIlroy: Yeah, national championships are a big deal. I’m lucky enough to have won a few of them and to get my name on here again with the likes of as you say, so many iconic figures in this game, this is what golf’s about and I’m just, I’m so proud to have my name on there again.
What was this crowd like? What was it like playing in front of these people chanting your name every step of the way, cheering you on from start to finish? Tell us what it felt like from Thursday through to this last putt.
McIlroy: It was absolutely incredible. Thank you. Like from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. This tournament is absolutely unbelievable. Thank you to the fans, St. George’s, RBC, Golf Canada, the volunteers, everyone that put this event on. I’ll remember this day for a long, long time.
There’s been six people who have won this back-to-back. Nobody’s won this three times in a row. What do you think?
McIlroy: I’m going to give it a go. I’ll be here next year.
Rory McIlroy on his round, the Canadian fans and the US Open next week
We would like to welcome our champion of the 2022 RBC Canadian Open, Rory McIlroy, into the interview room. Rory successful defends a title on the PGA TOUR for the first time, wins on the PGA TOUR for the 21st time, and moves into a tie for 31st on the all-time PGA TOUR wins list. Rory, if we could just get an opening comment on the victory and what it means to you.
McIlroy: And one more than Norman. Yeah, it means an awful lot. I feel like it’s getting tougher and tougher to win on the PGA TOUR. Even, just look at the two guys that I played with today. I went 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, that’s something to feel really good about.
So super happy to get that 21st win, to defend, even though it doesn’t feel like a defense because it’s been so long. And then just to play in a final group like that with that atmosphere all day. I mean the fans here this week have just been absolutely unbelievable. Like so good and so cool to play in an atmosphere like that. Boisterous, loud, but respectful. It was really, really cool.
It was really cool to be a part of and just really happy to get the win today and obviously sets me up well going into next week in Boston. But right now I just want to enjoy this and focus on this.
You mentioned the 8-under par score today. 62 ties the lowest final round score by a winner on TOUR this season. What was the key to the round that, you just kept your foot on the pedal the whole day, how were you able to do that?
McIlroy: Yeah, I think you needed to today. So if you look at the scoring Thursday, Friday, compared to the scoring over the weekend, we had a northerly wind direction Thursday, Friday, which makes the golf course play a little bit tougher. And then we had a southerly wind direction yesterday and today, which definitely makes the golf course play a touch easier.
So I think seeing the forecast last night and seeing that southerly wind again I knew I needed to go out and shoot 5- or 6-under par to have a chance to win.
So, yeah, you needed to keep your foot down, you needed to keep your foot on the pedal. I got off to a faster start today than I have done the previous few days. When you’ve got that little stretch around the tournament, 9, 10, 11, where you can make some birdies and I just kept it going.
I let them in, I let them back in a little bit after I got the 3-shot lead with a couple of missed short ones. But really proud of how I bounced back and birdied those last two holes to get the job done.
You mentioned earlier that this set you up well for Boston. Just wondering, playing a course like this that has some similarities to the Country Club how much confidence can you take into Brookline next week?
McIlroy: Yeah, I mean, I think that it’s not as if I win here and then we’re going to like Erin Hills or somewhere like that where it’s completely different. It’s a similar style of golf, it will probably be a similar setup in some ways. I would imagine the greens next week will be a little firmer if they get the weather they want to.
But overall I thought it was a great week to prepare for the U.S. Open and there’s no better way to prepare yourself for tournament golf than to be in contention, having to hit the shots when you need to. And I proved this week that I can do that and hopefully get myself back into position to have to do that again next week.
You and JT shared an embrace out on the 18th hole right after you won. Curious if you wouldn’t mind revealing what was said and just speak to just how special that was. I know you wanted to beat him but at the end of the day you guys are competing and both really had a great week.
McIlroy: Yeah, so JT is a tough competitor, but he’s also a really, really good friend of mine. And I have probably more respect for him than maybe anyone else out here. Just because we both live in South Florida, we practice so much together, and I see how much, how hard he works at his craft. I appreciate that and I respect that. It’s always cool to be able to go up against the best and come out on top.
And, yeah, we had that embrace on the final green and I just said, Let’s do this all again next week. That’s what I said to him. So that would be cool to be able to do it all over again with him.
Do you consider yourself an honorary Canadian yet and if not what will it take?
McIlroy: (Laughing) Hey, I’ll take it, for sure. The support and the love I’ve got — I’ve only played in Canada twice, in Hamilton and then here. It’s been two pretty good trips.
But, yeah, look, the fans are amazing. They come out and they support this event really well. I think they just really appreciate the fact that we come up here and play in your national championship.
Yeah, if there was some honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed upon me I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. That would be a very proud thing for me. But, no, I’m happy to come up here once every now and again and play some golf and take this trophy south of the border with me.
You mentioned the enthusiasm of the fans. Have you ever seen the crowd rush on to the fairway like they did on 18 there and come right up to the greenside?
McIlroy: Yeah, so I was part of the group in East Lake in Atlanta 2018 when Tiger got his first win coming back, geez, it was his first win in a long time. I’m going to say like five years. I was an afterthought in that group, but I was witness to that. That to this day is one of the coolest things that’s ever happened to me in my career. Today felt sort of similar, maybe not quite the — well it was pretty raucous out there, but it’s really cool. Whenever that happens and you can enjoy your walk and you know you’ve got the tournament sewed up you can take it in and really relish it and enjoy it and it was a cool scene on 18, yeah.
You won so many tournaments, but how much confidence and belief comes about just winning on a Sunday like this and beating two guys, just going into a U.S. Open and for the future?
McIlroy: Yeah, it does, it gives you a lot of confidence to know that, just to see where your game stacks up against the best. JT’s coming off winning his second major at the PGA Championship. He’s won I think 15 times on TOUR. He’s done a lot in the game. Tony as well. Like Tony’s struggled a little bit the last sort of six to 12 months, but he seems to have really turned it around. He had a good finish at Colonial, had another good finish here.
So to go up against guys that are not just the best players in the world but best players in the world playing somewhat near their best and coming out on top, that, it can only give you confidence. So, yeah, and I guess for me, just some of the shots that I hit coming down the stretch, those are things to certainly build on going into the next few weeks.