Golf

Rory McIlroy and Linn Grant lift the gloom around golf amid Saudi LIV Series controversy

DEREK LAWRENSON: Rory McIlroy’s Canadian Open success and Linn Grant’s historic achievement as the first woman to win on the DP World Tour lifts the gloom around golf amid Saudi LIV Series controversy

  • Rory McIlroy outlasted Justin Thomas as he defended the Canadian Open 
  • Linn Grant’s historic victory is exactly what golf needed given its current issues 
  • Grant managed to become the first woman to win on the DP World Tour  
  • It’s perfect a woman is pointing the way forward given the Saudi controversy 

A fabulous day’s golf featuring a historic victory for a woman on the DP World Tour ended with Rory McIlroy outlasting Justin Thomas to win an epic duel and successfully defend the Canadian Open.

Fighting his nerves down the stretch as much as the new PGA Champion, McIlroy stayed tough and came up with a brilliant birdie, birdie finish for a final round 62, as Thomas closed bogey, bogey. Perfect timing, perhaps, with the US Open taking place in Boston this week. ‘This is a day I’ll remember for a long time,’ said the victor.

Maybe there’s hope for the old game after all. Maybe there is a future out there that doesn’t involve Saudi grubbiness and greedy players getting paid offensive sums of money for delivering bang average golf.

Rory McIlroy defended the Canadian Open following an epic duel with Justin Thomas

Rory McIlroy defended the Canadian Open following an epic duel with Justin Thomas

Linn Grant's success in Sweden lifted the gloom around golf amid Saudi grubbiness

Linn Grant’s success in Sweden lifted the gloom around golf amid Saudi grubbiness

How perfect that it was a woman who pointed the way forward. You know, those second rate citizens that the Saudis like to subjugate and tell what they can and cannot do.

Nothing looked beyond the wondrous gifts of 22 year old Linn Grant after she became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour with her victory in the Scandinavian Mixed in her native Sweden.

I say win, but that hardly begins to do justice to her overwhelming nine shot triumph. ‘She hasn’t just beaten the men, she’s smashed them,’ opined Jamie Spence on Sky Sports.

Any detractors might point out she played off different tees and a course hundreds of yards shorter. But it’s an argument that doesn’t get beyond first base.

Grant became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour with her victory in the Scandinavian Mixed

Grant became the first woman to win on the DP World Tour with her victory in the Scandinavian Mixed

If the course was that easy for the women, why was the next best female – England’s Gabriella Cowley – no fewer than 14 shots behind Grant? Then there’s the things about golf that’s common to both sexes. Most importantly, the four inches between the ears.

How many times have we seen third round leaders fold under the expectation of a home crowd? Grant, in her rookie season on the women’s tour, was up against a chasing pack led by a former Open Champion and Sweden’s greatest male player, Henrik Stenson.

Thousands of fans turned up to watch to see if she could hang on to her two shot lead, creating a febrile atmosphere. All the circumstances, therefore, pointed to one of those days politely referred to as ‘learning experiences.’ 

Instead, what unfolded was an epochal round of 64 that took the breath away. Grant, the grand-daughter of a Scottish professional who emigrated from Inverness to Helsingborg, birdied five of her first six holes to take the tournament away from everyone else and render the rest of the journey a test of her nerve, one she passed effortlessly.

‘It’s great to beat all the men!’ she exclaimed. ‘All week I just felt like it’s the girls against the guys and whoever picks up that trophy represents the field.’ By the end she was representing her sport, providing a badly-needed glimmer of light at the end of the most dispiriting week since the 1999 Ryder Cup, and the bear-pit of Brookline.

Over in Canada the green shoots of recovery continued, where Justin Rose must still be wondering how he didn’t become the first European to shoot 59 on the PGA tour.

Grant coped effortlessly - it was fitting that it was a woman who pointed the way forward

Grant coped effortlessly – it was fitting that it was a woman who pointed the way forward

Needing just three pars to complete the feat, the Englishman finished bogey, birdie, bogey for a 60. Imagine shooting an 11 under par round featuring three eagles and feeling crestfallen.

McIlroy had a different caddie on the bag, with former Ulster rugby star Niall O’Connor, now working for a private equity firm in New York, standing in for regular man Harry Diamond, whose wife is due to give birth to their second child. 

They combined for a memorable success after McIlroy suffered an attack of nerves with bogeys at the 13th and the 16th that allowed Thomas to draw level with two to play. McIlroy, however, had the final word for a notable scalp, with Thomas even having second place stolen from him by Tony Finau birdieing the 18th.

In front of an enthralled, enormous crowd, the scintillating action was not only the perfect appetiser for this week’s major. Alongside Grant, it made you forget – if only for a day – the untold self-harm inflicted by the game’s civil war.


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