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SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Finau was playing as well as anyone in Sunday’s final round at the RBC Canadian Open, with his eyes on his first win of the season on the PGA Tour and first since the Northern Trust from last year.
Well, almost everyone, at least.
Rory McIlroy shot an otherworldly 62 to finish at 19 under par and walk away at St. Georges Golf and Country Club in Toronto, Ont., carding a total of 261 over four days to hold off his playing partner from Salt Lake City and third – place Justin Thomas.
Finau finished two shots behind McIlroy for second place with a bogey-free 64 that included six birdies – the last of which was perhaps the most important. That’s because the West High graduate’s 42-footer on the 18th green broke a two-way tie for second place with Thomas and pushed Finau’s winnings from $774,300 to $948,300 for second-place standalone. .
And smiling on the edge of the green with an army of Canadian golf fans around him was McIlroy, whom Finau first met when the two were young golf prodigies and who stayed with Finau’s parents. at a tournament in Utah when he was 10 – video of which went viral on Sunday as CBS played proof of the youngsters’ longtime friendship.
“I felt like I was in good shape coming in, I played very well all week,” Finau said. “I knew I was going to have a chance to win today if I stuck to my stuff. And I did. We were less than one before the last two (holes) so I knew that I had an opportunity in front of me.
“But Rory played very well, he closed out and hats off to a week like this. It’s fantastic to play this weekend. I played very well, he just played a few shots better.”
McIlroy took winner’s prize money of $1.566 million, the lion’s share of the $8.7 million purse won after blitzing the field, stumbling late and regrouping to drop to 19 under and a two-stroke lead for his second consecutive Canadian National Open title.
Thomas finished third under 15, one stroke ahead of Sam Burns and Justin Rose, who scattered seven birdies, three eagles and three bogeys en route to a 60 that tied his career-low round. Corey Conners was the weakest Canadian, shooting 62 on the final day to score a four-day total of 12-under 268 for sixth place.
Finau started the day with a share of the lead with McIlroy, his playing partner alongside Thomas, who was also in contention. On an extraordinary day, the Rose Park native was nothing short of brilliant, birdying three on the front nine and a fifth on the par 3, 208-yard 13th hole to move to 16 under the tournament – and as many three strokes behind McIlroy.
McIlroy, however, was more than great.
The Northern Irishman was oblivious up front, ripping five birdies to go 5-under 29 before opening the back with three in a row as he aimed for an unthinkable 59.
By the time his 40-foot birdie putt on the 394-yard par-4 12th hole hit bottom of the cup, one thing was clear: Toronto was McIlroy’s world, and everyone lived there.
“I think after COVID and everything, I needed a complete reset,” McIlroy told CBS after his game, his 21st career win and only the third golfer to win Canada’s National Open at back-to-back releases since 1952. a little gambling, and I realized what made me happy; That makes me happy.
“I have a great team around me, and they are behind me 100%. It makes it easier for me to do what I did today.”
The four-time major champion reminded everyone of his mortality with a bogey on the par-3 13th hole, and his three-shot lead over Thomas evaporated with a second bogey on the par-3, 189-yard 16th.
Thomas, for his part, was also phenomenal. The 29-year-old Alabama graduate dropped six straight birdies all the way to No. 11 to level Finau’s effort at 16 under with six holes remaining as he himself flirted with world records. journey. A birdie on the No. 14 gave him a temporary share of the lead, but his first bogey in 34 holes on the par 4, 494-yard 17th hole gave it back to McIlroy, who birdied the same hole for repel his advance. two shots before ending the set with his own birdie at 18.
End. Thomas. Pink. McIlroy faced many challenges while playing some of his best golf of the season, and fended off each of them defending his RBC title from 2019 (2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the pandemic of COVID-19).
Survive, advance and win.
“Today was amazing to play with Tony and JT, two of the best players in the world,” McIlroy said. “It’s a day I will remember for a long time.”
For Finau, Sunday ended an eight-straight cup streak with three top-five finishes since April, and plenty of confidence ahead of next week’s US Open at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachussetts.
“It’s huge,” Finau said. “I’m looking forward to next week. I’ve never seen Brookline. But every time you put in a good performance, no matter what you place, it always gives you confidence. So that made me definitely given confidence this week. My game is sharp and I can’t wait to see the golf course next week and get going.”