Entering the home stretch in the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open, Rory McIlroy seemed beyond determined to win. He birdied the final two holes to shoot a 62 on Sunday and win by two strokes. McIlroy’s score of -19 edged Tony Finau’s -17.
After the round, McIlroy made it clear what his motivation was down the stretch: To get his 21st career PGA Tour victory and pass Greg Norman’s 20.
“This is a day I’ll remember for a long, long time,” McIlroy said in his post-round interview live on CBS. “My 21st PGA Tour win, one more than someone else. That gave me a bit of extra incentive today and I’m happy to get it done.”
McIlroy doubled down in his press conference, confirming that he meant Norman when he said “someone else.”
“I alluded to it – I had extra motivation of what’s going on across the pond,” McIlroy said. “The guy that’s spearheading that tour has 20 wins on the PGA Tour and I was tied with him and I wanted to get one ahead of him. And I did. So that was really cool for me, just a little sense of pride on that one.”
McIlroy vs. Norman
Of course, Rory McIlroy’s ill-will towards Greg Norman is due to the fact that the Australian is LIV Golf’s chief executive. LIV Golf got started on Thursday with its inaugural event in London, trying to directly compete against the PGA Tour over the weekend.
LIV Golf is backed by $2 billion from Saudi Arabia’s government’s Public Investment Fund, with no one knowing exactly how that money was collected. Overall, the nation has a record of despicable human rights violations and horrible treatment of marginalized groups, among other questionable acts and practices.
Norman specifically went on record downplaying the Saudis’ role in killing Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He also watched with a shark’s eye as LIV Golf’s “security dudes” removed golf writer Alan Shipnuck from Phil Mickelson’s press conference.
Prior to the RBC Canadian Open, McIlroy pledged his allegiance to his future on the PGA Tour. Essentially, it is a question of guaranteed money versus earning your legacy. For example, McIlroy won $1.566 million for his win this week in Toronto, while Charl Schwartzel won $4.75 million for his 54-hole victory in London.
“My stance on it has been pretty clear from the start: It’s not something that I want to participate in,” McIlroy said. “For me, I want to play on the PGA Tour against the best players in the world.
“And I think for me, any decision that you make in your life that’s purely for money usually doesn’t end up going the right way. Obviously, money is a deciding factor in a lot of things in this world. But if it’s purely for money, it never seems to go the way you want it to.”
A few months back, McIlroy originally said LIV Golf was “dead in the water.” That prompted Norman to call him “brainwashed.”
PGA Tour vs. LIV Golf
Rory McIlroy now has his sights set on the 122nd U.S. Open at The County Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. The Northern Irishman is the odds-on favorite to win at 10-1, while PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Masters champion Scottie Scheffler are not far behind at 12-1.
There are 13 LIV Golf players in the U.S. Open field, including Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. The event is hosted by the USGA – not the PGA Tour – so they are allowed to compete. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan released a memo last week that listed 14 former members – Garcia, Johnson and Mickelson among them – who would no longer be able to participate in tournaments.
This feud between McIlroy/PGA Tour and Norman/LIV Golf is just getting started. USA Today’s Dan Wolken was right on the mark in his column on Sunday, saying: “Make no mistake, the PGA Tour absolutely needs to be defended that savagely right now in order to maintain its preeminence in the sport.”