"It was massive" - Rory McIlroy on shot that helped win Canadian Open
"Would that have been me?"
In his post-tournament press briefing, at St George Golf and Country Club, Rory McIlroy was asked if he knew who the last golfer was to claim a PGA Tour win and follow it up, the next week, with a major.
The Holywood native took an educated guess, and he was correct. Back in August 2014, he won the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and then claimed his fourth major, and second US PGA title, at Valhalla. As 10-day stretches go, it was pretty memorable.
We all know that McIlroy has not won a major since, and we all know about his early round implosions, near misses and not-so-close calls since then, but it is hard not to get revved up with how he is playing right now.
He made a late charge at the Masters, and early one at the US PGA, and, on Sunday, went a step further by winning when he was in contention at the RBC Canadian Open, in Toronto. He looked set to shoot a sub-60 round after 12 holes but then fell back to the chasing pair of Justin Thomas and Tony Finau before finishing birdie-birdie to defend the title he won in 2019 by two strokes.
Having picked up eight strokes in his first 12 holes, McIlroy wobbled with bogeys on 13 and 16, but saved par with a clutch up-and-down on the 14th after a wayward drive. Asked about that iron approach that prevented him making successive bogeys, he said:
"Yeah, it was massive. I think I was so confident with my wedges today that the lie on 14 after the tee shot wasn't... I felt like I could have got a 5-iron on it and got it up by the green. And maybe previously or a few years ago I would have tried to do that.
"But I just knocked it down there to a number that I knew was going to be comfortable and relied on my wedge play to get that up-and-down. So that was, that's a big step forward for me, something that I probably wouldn't have done previously and I think just having the confidence in my wedge game, knowing, 'Okay, I can get it up-and-down from a hundred yards, move on to the next and no damage is done'. So that was huge."
Asked what his immediate plans were, after the briefing, McIlroy told the press there was a bottle of wine with his name on it, gifted to him by his Team Ireland Olympics partner, Shane Lowry.
"I'll go straight to the locker room, get all my stuff packed up if it isn't already. Give the locker room staff a nice, generous tip for all their help this week. And then get going to the airport. My wife and daughter are already on the plane, so she's probably trying to keep her entertained before I get there.
"And then just get on the flight, go to Boston... I mean, if I'm feeling up to it, once I get to the house that we're renting in Boston I might afford myself a glass of wine or two to celebrate. I give Shane Lowry a ride from Jupiter up to Columbus last week and he brought me a really nice bottle of wine. So that's been with us. So maybe open that, if I'm not feeling too tired.
"And then go to bed and get up again tomorrow and go learn a new golf course and do it all over again."
Rory McIlroy on 18th green exchange with Justin Thomas
Two of the PGA Tours that have come out and spoken strongly in favour of it, amid the lavish launch of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf events, have been Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.
It was fitting, then, that the duo were left duking it out for the Canadian Open title, at the end of a week that saw leading players like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and more abandon the tour. Fans in Toronto, and watching on TV, witnessed golf at the highest level for a tournament won, in the past, by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods.
There was a lovely exchange on the 18th green, between McIlroy and Thomas, after the four-time major winner rolled in his final birdie of an impressive closing round of 62. Asked what the pair said to each other, McIlroy replied:
"JT is a tough competitor, but he's also a really, really good friend of mine. And I have probably more respect for him than maybe anyone else out here. Just because we both live in South Florida, we practice so much together, and I see how much, how hard he works at his craft. I appreciate that and I respect that.
"It's always cool to be able to go up against the best and come out on top. And, yeah, we had that embrace on the final green and I just said, 'Let's do this all again next week'. That's what I said to him. So that would be cool to be able to do it all over again with him."
Next week is Brookline in Massachusetts and another crack at major glory for the Northern Irishman, Thomas and many of the golfers that are now committed to the LIV events.
It will be a fascinating week, after a previous week that shook golf to its' core.