ANCASTER, Ont. — Rory McIlroy examined the RBC Canadian Open trophy closely, reading the names to himself, soaking in the history of the 110-year old championship.
His name will be the next one etched on to the trophy's silver surface after he fired a 9-under 61 on Sunday for a dominant seven-shot win. McIlroy joins Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen and Arnold Palmer as the only players in golf history to win the U.S., British and Canadian Opens, the three oldest championships on the PGA Tour.
"Just looking at some of the names, even on just this side of the trophy, Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Tigers Woods, Nick Price, some of the greats of the game have won this trophy," said McIlroy. "So for me to put my name on this is something special."
When it was announced in March that McIlroy would play in this year's Canadian Open — his first time playing a competitive round here — the North Irishman made it clear he wanted it to be the sixth national title in his trophy case.
On top of the U.S. (2011) and British (2014) Opens, McIlroy has also won the Australian (2013) and Irish Opens (2016). McIlroy also counts the Hong Kong Open (2011) toward his national-championship tally.
As if that wasn't enough, even more history was within his grasp on Sunday.
McIlroy, who sank nine birdies and eagled No. 17, was on pace for a record-setting round. But a bogey on 16 put a 59 out of reach and then a bogey on 18 meant that he would not match the tournament record 10-under 60 set by Brandt Snedeker on Friday and Carl Pettersson in 2010.
"Yeah, 61... it's um. Yeah," said McIlroy with a visible wince.
Added McIlroy to a round of laughter: "I had a chance to shoot a 59. Sorry for being disappointed up here but I had a chance.
"I played 17 wonderful holes, I was 10 under through 17 holes. I shot 4 under through the back nine with two bogeys, so I guess that was pretty good too."
McIlroy began the day tied atop the leaderboard with Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson, but the North Irishman was untouchable after four birdies on his first five holes.
Simpson (68) fell into a tie for second with Shane Lowry (67). Kuchar (70) and Snedeker (69) tied for fourth at 13 under.
Lowry will move 54 spots up the FedEx Cup standings, putting him in a solid position to retain his PGA Tour card another year.
"I think I more less got my card back," said Lowry. "I don't know what golf Rory is playing today, but it was just incredible."
There was a silver lining for Graeme McDowell and Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., who both qualified for the British Open by virtue of their top-10 finishes.
"Obviously very proud to have got one of the Open Championship spots and get that little monkey off my back and let me go and play some golf the next few weeks," said McDowell, who now gets to play at his hometown course at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland July 18-21.
Hadwin (70) finished sixth at 12 under to win the Rivermead Cup as lowest Canadian pro player at the tournament. He was aiming for a spot in next week's U.S. Open but was pleased to lock up a berth in the British Open.
"My sole focus today was getting to the top three to get in the U.S. Open next week," said Hadwin. "Actually, to be honest, kind of forgot about that little caveat there with the RBC Canadian Open being in the qualifying series this year.
"Disappointed as I am, it's nice to get into another major this year. We'll rest up, prepare, and get ready to go for that."
Mackenzie Hughes (71), from nearby Dundas, Ont., finished in a tie for 14th at 8 under. Ben Silverman (69) of Thornhill, Ont., tied for 20th, Abbotsford's Nick Taylor (72) tied for 27th, Roger Sloan (73) of Merritt, B.C., tied for 56th and Toronto's Richard Jung (74) was 69th.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press