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SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Finau was playing as well as anybody in Sunday’s final round at the RBC Canadian Open, with eyes focused on his first PGA Tour win of the season and first since last year’s Northern Trust.
Well, almost anybody, at least.
Rory McIlroy shot an otherworldly 62 to finish at 19-under-par and pull away at St. Georges Golf and Country Club in Toronto, Ontario, carding a four-day total of 261 to hold off his playing partner from Salt Lake City and third-place Justin Thomas.
Finau finished two shots back of McIlroy for second with a bogey-free 64 that included six birdies — the last of which being 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 the standalone runner-up spot.
And smiling on the edge of the green with an army of Canadian golf fans surrounding him was McIlroy, whom Finau first met when the two were youth golf prodigies and who stayed with Finau’s parents during a tournament in Utah when he was 10 years old — video of which went viral through Sunday as CBS played the evidence of the youngsters’ long-time friendship.
“I felt like I was in good form coming in, played really nicely all week,” Finau said. “I knew I was going to have a chance to win today if I just kind of stuck to my stuff. And I did. We were within one going to the last couple (holes), so I knew I had an opportunity in front of me.
“But Rory played great, he closed it out and hat’s off to him on a week like this. That’s fantastic playing on the weekend. I played great, he just played a couple shots better.”
McIlroy took home the $1,566 million winner’s earnings, the lion’s share of the $8.7 million purse earned after blitzing the field, stumbling late, and regrouping to surge ahead to 19-under and two-shot lead for his second-straight title in Canada’s national open .
Thomas finished third at 15-under, one shot 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 low Canadian, shooting 62 on the final day to card a four-day total of 12-under 268 for sixth.
Finau started the day with a share of the lead with McIlroy, his playing partner alongside Thomas, who was also in contention. On a day of the extraordinary, the Rose Park native was simply great, knocking in three birdies on the front nine and a fifth on the par-3, 208-yard 13th hole to move to 16-under on the tournament — and as many the three strokes behind McIlroy.
McIlroy, though, was so much more than great.
The Northern Irishman was unconscious on the front, ripping five birdies to go 5-under 29 before opening the back with three-straight as he took aim at an unthinkable 59.
By the time his 40-foot birdie putt on the par-4, 394-yard 12th hole hit the bottom of the cup, one thing was clear: Toronto was McIlroy’s world, and everyone else was just living in it.
“I think after COVID and everything, I needed a complete reset,” McIlroy told CBS after his round, his 21st career win and just the third golfer to win Canada’s national open in back-to-back outings since 1952. “I rededicated myself to the game a little bit, and realized what made me happy; this makes me happy.
“I’ve got a great team around me, and they’re behind me 100%. It makes it easier for me to do what I did today.”
The four-time major champion everyone of his mortality with a bogey on the par-3 13th hole, and his three-shot lead over Thomas evaded with a second bogey on the par-3, 189-yard 16th.
Thomas, for his part, was phenomenal as well. The 29-year-old Alabama grad dropped six-straight birdies through No. 11 to tie Finau’s effort at 16-under with six holes remaining as he flirted with course records himself. The birdie on 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 to push his lead back to two shots before finishing off the round with his own birdie on 18.
Finished. Thomas. Rose. McIlroy faced plenty of challenges while playing some of his best golf of the season, and fended off each one of them in defending his RBC title from 2019 (the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Survive, advance — and win.
“It was incredible today, playing with Tony and JT, two of the top players in the world,” McIlroy said. “This is a day I’ll remember for a long time.”
For Finau, Sunday finished off a run of eight-straight made cuts with three top-five finishes since April, and plenty of confidence heading into next week’s US Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
“This is big,” Finau said. “I’m looking forward to next week. Never seen Brookline. But any time you’re coming off a good solid performance no matter what you place it always gives you confidence. So it definitely has given me confidence this week. My game is sharp and I’m looking forward to seeing the golf course next week and getting after it.”
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