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McIlroy captures Canadian Open with career-tying 61

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy needed to hole this bunker shot on 18 for an elusive 59 score, and despite sailing it long he still claimed his first Canadian Open title, winning by a massive seven strokes in his tournament debut. AFP

McIlroy captures Canadian Open with career-tying 61

Rory McIlroy blitzed the field at the Canadian Open on Sunday, firing a scintillating nine-under 61 to run away with the title by a massive seven strokes less than a week before the US Open.

McIlroy, who flirted with a 59, put on a golf clinic, rolling in nine birdies, one eagle and two bogeys for a 22-under 258 total and a dominating victory over runner-ups Shane Lowry of Ireland and American Webb Simpson.

“It was awesome,” said McIlroy, who claimed his sixth career national open title in his Canadian debut. “I said at the start that I wanted to be aggressive and play with freedom.

“This will give me so much confidence. This is a huge tournament and I am so proud of myself.

“I am going to take a lot from this and I am so excited for next week [at the US Open].”

The four-time major championship winner tied his career best when he shot a 61 in the third round of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2015. His previous best closing score to win a tournament was a 62 at the Quail Hollow Championship in 2010.

McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, began the day with a share of the lead with Simpson and Matt Kuchar at 13-under at the Hamilton Golf and Country Club in Hamilton, Ontario.

He was making his Canadian Open debut and improved with each round, shooting 67, 66, 64, before opening the birdie floodgates on Sunday.

Lowry, who shot a closing round of 67, and Simpson, who shot a 68, finished at 15-under 265, two shots ahead of fourth place finishers Brandt Snedeker (69) and Matt Kuchar (70).

The four-time major winner McIlroy was part of a strong field at the Canadian Open, which this year serves as the final tune up before the US Open.

The win was also his second of 2019 – he captured The Players Championship in March.

McIlroy bested the previous Canadian Open scoring record by five shots. The previous record of 263 was set by Johnny Palmer in 1952 and equalled in 2014 by Tim Clark.

McIlroy made four straight birdies on the back nine, starting at the par-four 11th, to put himself in contention to become just the sixth player in history to win a tournament with closing score of 59.

A bogey-eagle-bogey finish foiled his attempt, but made for a highly entertaining conclusion to his round.

His eagle on the par-five 17 started with a 341-yard drive to the centre of the fairway. His perfect approach shot set up an easy two-foot putt.

That left him needing a birdie on the par-four 18 to shoot a 59. It would have been his first birdie of the week on the hole.

But he found the bunker on the right of the green. Instead of holing out from the sand for 59, he came out too hot, putting his ball about eight feet past the pin.

Canadian Adam Hadwin carded a 70 to finish alone in sixth.

World No1 Brooks Koepka shot an even-par 70 on Sunday to finish tied for 50th place.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson finished with a 69 for a tie for 20th at seven under.

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