Rory McIlroy has only been to Canada once, but he’s looking forward to possibly writing his name in the history books when he plays in the RBC Canadian Open this summer.
McIlroy’s one visit to Canada was a brief stop that featured a round at The National Golf Club in Woodbridge, Ont., with friend and former One Direction member Niall Horan in 2015.
“All of these national opens that you can play in are important,” said McIlroy on Monday, calling in to a media conference at Hamilton Golf and Country Club. “I think the older a tournament is, the more prestigious it is.
“To hear that the Canadian Open is 115 years old, one of the oldest events not just on tour, but in the world, that makes it pretty prestigious.”
The fourth-ranked golfer in the world also has his eye on adding another trophy to his case.
“I’ve won a couple of national opens that I’m pretty proud of,” the Northern Irishmen said. “The Irish Open, the Australian Open, the U.S., it would be nice to add the Canadian to that list also.”
Although he’ll be focused on winning the only PGA Tour event in Canada, McIlroy does hope to take in some of the local sights.
“I hear the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is better than the U.S. side, so I might have to take a trip over there,” said McIlroy, to laughter. “Apart from that, it’ll be a work week. It’ll be a [week when] I’m practising and playing hard and trying to win the tournament.”
It won’t be an easy tournament to win, with arguably the deepest field in the tournament’s storied history.
World No. 3 Brooks Koepka and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson were officially added to the Canadian Open’s lineup on Monday, joining McIlroy and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
“Winning a national open, one that is part of my family now, would be a big deal,” said Watson, whose wife Angie is from outside of Toronto. “We’ve got two flags up at our house, so it’s a big deal. It would be a great honour.”
PGA Tour players Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Ryan Palmer, Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker have also confirmed they’ll be playing at Hamilton Golf and Country from June 3-9.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., and Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., who won the Valero Texas Open on April 7, are two Canadians who are officially in the field.
Golf Canada, RBC and the PGA Tour have made a concerted effort in the past 18 months to raise the prestige of the Canadian Open by increasing the purse and changing the date of the tournament to the first week of June.
Historically, the Canadian Open was held in September, but starting in 2007 it was played in late July, the prime golf season. Unfortunately, it was also the week after the British Open, causing many of the PGA Tour’s top players to miss the tournament as they recovered from the challenging major.
This year’s event is in early June, the week before the U.S. Open, essentially turning it into a tune-up event for some of the biggest names in golf.
McIlroy acknowledged on Monday that the date change is partly what drew him to the Canadian Open.
“June was looking like it was going to be sort of quiet for me, so I wanted to play a bit,” McIlroy said. “One of my goals this year was to play more and to be more competitive and that’s really what it’s down to.
“Part of the reason I wanted to play was that I wanted to play my way into the U.S. Open the following week.”