Coming off a weekend that couldn’t have gone much better for Canadian golf, some of the country’s top players are poised to make more headlines this week.
Following a spectacular Sunday in which Brooke Henderson captured her 11th career LPGA Tour title and fan favourite Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland defended his RBC Canadian Open title as the tournament returned following a two-year COVID hiatus, the Canadian flag could be front and centre on the sport’s top stages in the days ahead.
Corey Conners, fresh off a sixth-place finish at St. George’s in Toronto following a 62 on Sunday, is one of five Canadians in the U.S. Open in Brookline, Mass., while Henderson will tee it up an event she already has won twice — the Meijer LPGA Classic in Belmont, Mich., about a 2 1/2-hour drive from the Windsor/Detroit border.
“I’m really looking forward to the upcoming schedule, Meijer next week and women’s KPMG PGA (a major) in two weeks. I’ve won that, too, so two weeks in a row I’ve also been a past champion,” said Henderson, the Meijer champ in 2017 and ’19.
“So looking forward to getting back to those events and hopefully putting in some solid rounds and putting myself back in contention.
“I love being in the final groups on the weekend. That’s the goal moving forward.”
Henderson put any doubts about her game in the rear-view mirror — she had missed two consecutive cuts and withdrew from another tournament earlier this spring — with her fantastic finish at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, a Sunday 64 followed by an eagle on the first playoff hole to win in New Jersey.
The victory was her first in more than a year.
“Early in my career I was winning like twice a year and then the pandemic put a little bit of a stop to that,” said the native of Smiths Falls, Ont. “When the wins are kind of far apart it does mean more when you get another victory.
“This one was I guess a little over a year, but feels like a long time I guess when you’re used to winning a little bit more consistently.”
• Glory for Rory: ‘Raucous’ fans go wild as McIlroy defends Canadian Open title
• The adjustments of Brooke Henderson: A rule change forced Brooke Henderson to change her driver. A drive to be the best convinced Henderson to adjust her putting grip.
Both paid off in victory.
• McIlroy takes a shot at Norman: Following a thrilling final round, McIlroy couldn’t help but point out who he passed on the all-time PGA Tour leaderboard.
• PGA Tour commissioner blasts LIV: Jay Monahan described the Saudi-funded league as a “series of exhibition matches” that spends billions of dollars on players pwithout getting a return on its investment.
Conners, meanwhile, could be poised for a breakthrough at a major. The native of Listowel, Ont., has been in the top 10 at the past three Masters.
Mike Weir’s Masters win in 2003 remains the only Canadian men’s major triumph.
“Excited for the U.S. Open. Looking ahead now, it will be another really fun challenge,” Conners said Sunday. “I feel like a lot of the things that I did here will serve me well next week at the Country Club. The course was set up great this week and sort of major championship rough and needed to hit different types of shots to make sure you kept the ball in the short stuff. So, yeah, it was a great week this week and try and have some more fun next week.”
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., Roger Sloan of Merritt, B.C., and Ben Silverman of Thornhill, Ont., also have earned spots in the third major of the men’s season.
Hadwin and Hughes both made the cut at the Canadian Open.
“I’ve been playing some good golf, so I just got to keep doing the things that I’m doing and stay positive and just keep working hard,” said Hadwin, who got into the U.S. Open as an alternate last week.
Canada was also centre stage for golf controversy this week with the Canadian Open going head to head with the debut of the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series in London. While there were fears about the Canadian Open being overshadowed by LIV, the heated debate actually seemed to put more attention on the Toronto tournament in many ways — and the big crowds were rewarded with a leaderboard featuring some of the biggest names in the sport.
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With LIV members eligible to take part in the U.S. Open (unlike PGA Tour events like the Canadian Open), the two worlds are set to collide near Boston.
And, as the moderator in McIlroy’s press conference noted on Sunday, the last golfer to win on the PGA Tour and then do so again the following week at a major was McIlroy himself in 2014 – the Bridgestone Invitational and the Open Championship.
If McIlroy could do so again, it promises to be high drama after he wasn’t shy about making his feelings LIV feelings known in Toronto.
A McIlroy victory might also be the next best thing to a Canadian winning for many fans in this country.
“The support and the love I’ve got — I’ve only played in Canada twice, in Hamilton (in 2019) and then here — it’s been two pretty good trips,” McIlroy said.
“But, yeah, look, the fans are amazing. They come out and they support this event really well. I think they just really appreciate the fact that we come up here and play in your national championship.
“Yeah, if there was some honorary Canadian citizenship bestowed upon me, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. That would be a very proud thing for me. But, no, I’m happy to come up here once every now and again and play some golf and take this trophy south of the border with me.”