Rory eyes Pebble Beach after solid 61

Rory McIlroy with a Toronto Raptors jersey after winning the Canadian Open in Ontario on Sunday. The Raptors need one win to clinch their first NBA title.
Rory McIlroy with a Toronto Raptors jersey after winning the Canadian Open in Ontario on Sunday. The Raptors need one win to clinch their first NBA title.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

OTTAWA • Rory McIlroy threatened to shoot 59 but fell just short, as he made his Canadian Open debut a great one by clinching a seven-stroke victory in Ontario last Sunday and then said it was only mission half-accomplished.

The Northern Irishman carded a stellar nine-under 61 in the final round at Hamilton Golf & Country Club, matching his career-best score on the PGA Tour.

The four-time Major champion finished at 22-under 258, while Ireland's Shane Lowry (67) and American Webb Simpson (68) tied for second place on 265.

McIlroy joined Tommy Armour, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods on an elite list of players to have won Canadian, British and US Opens.

It was a near perfect confidence-booster ahead of this week's US Open at Pebble Beach.

"I'll probably enjoy tonight and have a couple of drinks on the plane on the way... but once I get up in the morning in California, I'm not going to going to think about this week," he said. "I'm just going to know my game's in good shape and try to win another Major."

Sunday's triumph was McIlroy's 16th on the PGA Tour, and he has now won a national championship in six different countries - after previous successes at the US Open, British Open, Irish Open, Australian Open and Hong Kong Open.

McIlroy made his intentions clear from the first hole last Sunday, when he launched a 350-yard drive and then struck the pin with his pitch shot from 40 yards. The tap-in birdie gave him the solo lead and he never looked back, adding eight more birdies to get to nine under for the round after 14 holes.

After a bogey at the par-four 16th, he bounced back with a tap-in eagle at the par-five 17th thanks to a seven-iron 200-yard approach, and the chance of a 59 was back on with a birdie on the par-four 18th.

McIlroy, however, pushed his approach into a greenside bunker and closed with a bogey.

Separately at the LPGA Tour's ShopRite Classic, Lexi Thompson had a much better closing as she eagled the 18th at the Seaview Golf Club in Galloway, New Jersey, to capture the tournament by a shot.

The 24-year-old American signed for a four-under 67 and 12-under 201 total, one clear of 36-hole leader Lee Jeong-eun. It was her 11th LPGA title, and it came at the site of her first professional win nine years ago.

"I knew coming into the day that it was going to play very difficult, just because this golf course can get so windy and there are a lot of crosswinds," she said.

The result gives her the longest win streak on the LPGA, with a victory in each of the past seven seasons. She is also the 13th different winner this season.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline 'Rory eyes Pebble Beach after solid 61'. Print Edition | Subscribe