Rory McIlroy gives love to Canadian golf fans as a result of…………’Everyone is so proud

Rory McIlroy gives love to Canadian golf fans as a result of…………’Everyone is so proud

ANCASTER, Ont. — Rory McIlroy and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan hugged before an assembled crowd of dozens — despite the 6:30 a.m. start-time of his pro-am — who serenaded McIlroy’s caddie Harry Diamond with ‘Happy Birthday.’ They laughed. They walked. They talked about the final round of the PGA Championship.

And then it was back to work.

McIlroy, who won the RBC Canadian Open in 2019 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club and successfully defended his title three years later, said there’s nothing like a national open, and there’s nothing like Canadian fans.

In an exclusive conversation with Sportsnet, McIlroy — a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season — said since he first teed it up at the RBC Canadian Open, all he’s ever wanted to do is experience that feeling over and over again.

“The lasting memory (from 2019) was the support. It was absolutely incredible and all I’ve wanted to do is come back and play in that atmosphere year after year,” McIlroy said.

Without a title to defend this year, there was potentially a question about whether or not McIlroy would appear again at the Canadian Open before a busy summertime stretch. He said, however, he wanted to support RBC. The bank is the only two-tournament sponsor on the PGA Tour.

“I think I’ve made it well known what I think of national opens. They’re the oldest championships in our game and I think they’re very, very important,” McIlroy said later Wednesday morning in a press conference. “I’m very proud that I’ve won quite a few of them so it’s important to keep coming back and to play in front of crowds like this is amazing — it’s always a pleasure to come back up here.”

Although seemingly a lifetime has passed since McIlroy won the Canadian Open in 2019 — both in golf and life — the thing that stands out the most about his victory five years ago was what a “feel-good” factor that entire week was, he said. The Raptors were about to win the NBA championship and McIlroy stated he was “blown away” by the enthusiasm of the crowd.

Laughing sheepishly, he said he’s never been to a hockey game, but he imagines playing in Canada is what a hockey environment is like.

“I just think that the fans were so appreciative. And it’s not like I don’t get that elsewhere, but it’s more than that. It’s the one tournament where they get to see the top pros each year — maybe not this year because of the Presidents Cup — but it just feels different,” McIlroy said.

“The Rink hole definitely adds a bit of an atmosphere to it and that it’s a national open. Everyone is so proud. I was talking to Nick Taylor (on Tuesday) and I said, ‘I wish I had the patriotism that Canadians have.’ They love where they’re from. It’s awesome.”

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