Planet Golf — 11 June 2022 by GW staff and news services
McIIroy wins 21st PGA Tour title

TORONTO — Rory McIlroy won the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday, closing with an 8-under 62 to win a wild race to the finish with Justin Thomas and Tony Finau.

McIlroy had his first title defense on the PGA TOUR, even if he had to wait for it. He won golf’s fourth-oldest national open in 2019 at Hamilton Golf & Country Club, only for the the COVID-19 pandemic to cancel the next two editions.

Thomas pushed him to the end at St. George’s Golf & Country Club, and the tournament effectively ended on the 17th hole. McIlroy and Thomas were tied and in the rough. McIlroy hit a wedge that rolled out to tap-in range, while Thomas missed a 10-foot par putt, a two-shot swing. Thomas closed with a pair of bogeys and still shot 64.

McIlroy finished at 19-under 261 for a two-stroke victory.

Finau holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th for a 64 to finish second alone. Thomas was third at 14 under. Justin Rose matched the tournament- and course-record with a 60 — with three eagles and three bogeys — to tie for fourth with Sam Burns (65) at 14 under.

The Canadian crowd was enormous having been kept away since 2019, and thousands surrounded the 18th green as the threesome of McIlroy, Thomas and Finau finished.

The victory was the second for McIlroy this season, adding to his victory in Las Vegas last October in THE CJ CUP @SUMMIT. He won for the 21st time on the PGA TOUR.

Rose was 11-under with three holes to play. He bogeyed the 16th, hit to 2 feet on 17 for birdie, then went over the green on 18 and missed an 18-foot par putt. Carl Pettersson also shot 60 at St. George’s in his 2010 victory.

Corey Conners was the top Canadian, shooting a 62 to finish sixth at 12 under.Get the latest happenings on TOUR 

THIRD ROUND

TORONTO – Growing up in Kentucky, the opportunities were likely limited for Justin Thomas to feel what it’s like to skate onto ice to the unmistakable bang of smacked hockey boards.

Saturday at the RBC Canadian Open that electricity was turned up loud, and as Thomas entered The Rink (the par-3 16th) after rolling in a 1-foot, 2-inch putt for eagle on the previous hole he was serenaded by the Canadian crowd like he was one of their own.

“I don’t know why it’s happening, but I’m very appreciative of the fan support here in Toronto. I said to… Rory (McIlroy) and Corey (Conners) that it felt like a major a bit out there,” said Thomas.

“I knew, obviously, very passionate sports fans up in this part of the world and then having two years away from this tournament, I knew they were going to be ready to go this year.”

Thomas shot a bogey-free 63 Saturday and St. George’s Golf and Country Club and is just two shots back of the 54-hole lead held by Tony Finau and Rory McIlroy.

Sam Burns, ranked second in the FedExCup standings, is amongst those tied with Thomas at 9 under.

Thomas, Finau, and McIlroy will be in the final group together on Sunday. Golfers will go off split tees and in threesomes with anticipated weather in the Greater Toronto Area.

With this much firepower at the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday’s finale in Toronto, the return of the RBC Canadian Open is very much delivering.

“I mean, without sounding cheesy, it makes me pretty happy inside seeing this,” said Thomas of the top-heavy leaderboard heading into Sunday in Toronto. “There’s no other place I would want to be playing and it’s just, obviously with a tournament like this and the history that it has and how long it’s been played, had a lot of great past champions and venues and drama.

“And it looks like it has a potential tomorrow to produce a little bit more of that and create some more history.”

Thomas’ 63 – clipped by Finau’s 62 as one of the low rounds of the week – was “easy,” he said. The winner of the 2022 PGA Championship had as complete a day as you could ask for, sitting inside the top-10 in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Tee to Green, and Putting.

“I didn’t do anything great. I just didn’t do anything bad,” said Thomas. “But I took advantage of some of the opportunities when I had them there in, kind of the middle of the course, and just stayed patient and waited for my run.” 

Finau, who has won twice on the PGA TOUR, finished poorly on Friday – bogeying two of his final three holes – and that lit a fire in his belly to come out with a solid Saturday round.

He birdied his first hole of the day, went out in 5-under 29, and added a birdie on his final hole of the day to put a bow on a 62. This was his lowest round on the PGA TOUR since a matching 62 in the second round of The American Express in January 2020.

“I knew I was playing well, but at any given moment on this golf course you can make a number. So, there’s no reason to get ahead of myself, I just tried to stay in the moment as much as I could and put together a nice round all the way to the end,” said Finau. “And any time you’re at the top of the leaderboard and have a chance to win on a Sunday on the PGA TOUR it’s exciting.”

McIlroy, meanwhile, is trying to go back-to-back for the first time in his TOUR career. No one on the PGA TOUR has repeated as champion at two different venues since Jim Furyk at the RBC Canadian Open in 2006 and 2007.

He was quick to heap praise on the Canadian fans, who after two years of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were thrilled with the buzz of a Saturday afternoon in the country’s biggest city.

“The atmosphere out there today was, I mean I can’t remember the last time I played in an atmosphere like that,” said McIlroy. “It was really special.”

There’s another carrot the likes of McIlroy, Finau, Thomas, and Burns don’t need to worry about Sunday – a spot in The Open Championship. The Canadian Open is part of the Open Championship Series and is offering two spots to golfers who are not otherwise exempt and who finish inside the top eight come Sunday.

Wyndham Clark and Alex Smalley (tied for third), and Austin Cook and Jim Knous (tied for seventh) are in the mix for a spot to compete for the Claret Jug.

There’s also the race for low Canadian still to be settled.

Nick Taylor, who sits tied for 15th through three rounds at St. George’s, is a shot ahead of Corey Conners. Neither Taylor – who was as high as tied for second through the early part of Saturday – or Conners, the top-ranked Canadian in the FedExCup, has ever won the Rivermede Cup.

“The ovation on the first tee, walking off a lot of greens on to the tees, it’s something that I don’t get every week, so it’s nice to feel that buzz,” said Taylor. “I think everyone’s really excited to have the event back.”

The excitement was high, and the Canadian Open is certainly living up to the hype.

SECOND ROUND

TORONTO — Wyndham Clark closed with an unlikely par save Friday to take a one-stroke lead over defending champion Rory McIlroy and four other players into the weekend in the RBC Canadian Open.

After bogeying Nos. 15 and 16 in windy conditions at St. George’s, Clark got up-and-down from about 50 feet from a semi-plugged lie on the downslope in a greenside bunker on the par-4 18th. He was 7 under after an even-par 70.

“Really had no chance,” Clark said. “And I would love to say I was trying to do what I did, but I was trying to punt a little bit out to the right and somehow how when I came into the ball it like plopped up to the left and landed in the rough and trickled down to 4 feet. It was definitely the best save I’ve had of the year. It was pretty awesome.”

McIlroy (68) was tied with Matt Fitzpatrick (70), Alex Smalley (67), Keith Mitchell (67) and Jim Knous (67). McIlroy had to wait three years to defend his 2019 title because of the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled golf’s fourth-oldest championship the last two years.

“Challenging,” McIlroy said. “I think the only thing this golf course needs for it to feel a little more major like is just a bit of length. I think that’s the only thing that’s missing. The rough is very penal, the greens are tricky, the wind’s up, it’s drying out a little bit because of the wind. All of a sudden you’ve got a pretty testing golf course.”

Fitzpatrick closed double bogey-birdie-bogey-bogey-bogey.

“Just a poor finish,” Fitzpatrick said.” Just didn’t hole the putts I needed to on the last three. Just pathetic. Yeah, just pathetic finish really with the putter.”

Clark birdied the par-14th to reach 9 under, then bogeyed the next two. On the par-5 15, he drove into the right fairway bunker and saved bogey with a 10-footer. On the par-3 16th, he missed a 7 1/2-foot par try after hitting short and right into a bunker.

“Honestly, I played really well,” Clark said. “It was tough out there. It was windy, there was some tough pin placements. You guys have seen, these greens are very tough and you get into some tough spots where you have to be defensive even from 10, 15 feet.”

Clark opened with a 63 on Thursday after rallying Monday in a 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier to get into the field next week at The Country Club outside Boston.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was 4 under after a 67.

Aaron Cockerill and Nick Taylor were the top Canadians, tied for 21st at 2 under. Cockerill, making his PGA TOUR debut, shot a 68. Taylor had a 70.

“First PGA TOUR event and I’m in a decent position going into the weekend,” Cockerill said. “Kind of where I want to be and see if we can throw a low one on the board tomorrow and see what happens.”

PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas also was 2 under after his second 69. 

FIRST ROUND

TORONTO, Ont. – Scottie Scheffler hopes the old trope that “it’s not how you start but how you finish” will come to fruition this week at the RBC Canadian Open.

The FedExCup leader shot a 3-under 67 on Friday at St. George’s Golf and Country Club to follow his first-round 69. His Thursday score came after he made bogeys on Nos. 1 and 2 and was immediately behind the eight ball. But thanks to a nifty chip-in on the par-3 16th late Thursday and starting with three straight birdies on Friday, he is firmly in the mix for his fifth PGA TOUR title of the season.

“I feel like my game is in a decent spot right now and so if I just kind of keep doing what I’m doing, not overreact to things,” said Scheffler of his first round. “It’s definitely frustrating, but just kind of stayed in it and I had a chance to turn in a really good score yesterday afternoon and I finished with two bogeys too.”

“Other than the start and the finish, yesterday was a great round,” said Scheffler, who began Thursday with two consecutive bogeys and ended the round in the same fashion.

Scheffler has been dominating the par 5s so far this week, shooting 6 under on those holes alone through two rounds.

“Today they all came in the beginning of the round and so kind of had to come out of the gates firing,” said Scheffler, who is seventh on Tour in par 5 scoring average this season. “It’s definitely good to be able to take advantage of those.”

Two weeks ago, Scheffler and Sam Burns dueled it out in a playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge with Burns emerging as the victor. Burns trails Scheffler by about 1,000 points in the FedExCup standings, sitting No. 2 in the season-long race. This week at the RBC Canadian Open – where they’re both making their tournament debuts – they were paired together for the first two rounds.

And appropriately, they’re tied through 36 holes as well.

Burns shot a 1-under 69 on Friday and the pair is at 4 under heading into the weekend. Neither golfer lost too much ground on the early leaders – something both Burns and Scheffler were happy about.

“It’s just difficult to shoot a really low number,” said Burns of St. George’s Golf and Country Club. “I think if you can just kind of plot your way around this place and shoot 2 or 3 under every day you’re going to have a really good chance.”

Scheffler, who missed the cut at the PGA Championship, came to Canada after a rest at home last week. He and Burns both said they liked playing the week before a major to get set for the challenge to come. And Scheffler said the way St. George’s was set up was a solid pre-exam.

“I kind of like playing into those events. So for me getting a good prep week here where I can get some practice in and the golf course is somewhat similar is really helpful,” he said.

“I think for me I prefer to play the week before, especially an event like this. It hasn’t happened in a couple years, and I know the Canadian fans are really excited for us to be here this week, we’re all excited to play,” added Burns.

Scheffler and Burns both said the golf course has risen to the occasion as a challenging layout, especially around the greens.

The rough, Scheffler said, is up. And the greens, with a lot of pitch in them, are making birdies hard to come by.

“There’s definitely a lot of slope (in the greens). I would say these aren’t as fast as Augusta, but there’s definitely a lot of pitch in them,” said Scheffler. “Even when you hit a really good shot, you’re kind of stuck in a position where you got a putt that has just a ton of movement. It’s definitely a challenging course.”

But Scheffler has made tricky golf courses look easy all season long, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he finishes off another week with aplomb. Burns, though, will be right there – as he has been frequently of late.

FIRST ROUND

TORONTO — Wyndham Clark started the week with a late charge to play his way into the U.S. Open in a qualifier, and then he stayed hot Thursday in the RBC Canadian Open for a 7-under 63 to take the first-round lead.

Clark opened with five birdies in nine holes and kept bogeys off his card at St. George’s Golf and Country Club for the third round of his PGA TOUR career at 63 or lower.

Matt Fitzpatrick was a stroke back, and Doug Ghim and Harold Varner III followed at 65.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy had six birdies in his round of 66 that left him tied with Tony Finau, Lee Hodges and Mackenzie Hughes, who would love nothing more than to become the first Canadian to win his national open since 1954.

McIlroy had to wait three years to defend his title because of the COVID-19 pandemic that canceled golf’s fourth-oldest championship the last two years. He closed with a 61 to win by seven shots at Hamilton.

“I felt like the course was there to go even lower just from the rain and how receptive it was,” McIlroy said. “Overall, very happy with the start of the week, especially coming off a disappointing weekend at the Memorial last weekend.”

Clark didn’t break par over the final three rounds at the Memorial, and he wasn’t looking good in his 36-hole qualifier on Monday. But then he put together five birdies in an 11-hole stretch that allowed him to get into the U.S. Open next week at The Country Club outside Boston.

“It’s nice to see some putts go in,” Clark said. “I haven’t shot a low one in a while. I’ve had a lot of couple under par, 3-, 4-under pars in my last few events, but really felt like I left a lot of shots out there. This round I maximized pretty much everything out there.”

Clark putted for birdie on all but one hole, and he holed an 8-foot par putt on No. 12 early in his round.

Fitzpatrick started and finished his round with a birdie, holing a 35-foot putt on the par-3 eighth hole for a 64.

“Really, really happy with the way I played today, just solid all around,” Fitzpatrick said. “Had a couple opportunities to chip it a little bit closer, but other than that, I’m being really picky. Everything in my game was going well.”

PGA champion Justin Thomas, who wanted to play the week before a major because it worked so well the last time, opened with a 69.

Sam Burns, coming off a victory two weeks ago at Colonial, opened with a 67 in the afternoon, and top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler had a 69. The Canadian Open has attracted five of the top 10 players in the world.

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