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Rory McIlroy holds off Justin Thomas and Tony Finau to defend Canadian Open title

McIlroy heads to the US Open having won the RBC Canadian Open for a second time and secured his 21st PGA Tour title; England's Justin Rose finishes tied fourth after carding 10-under 60 during birdie-filled Sunday

Image: Rory McIlroy successfully defended his title at the RBC Canadian Open

Rory McIlroy came through a final-round tussle with Justin Thomas and Tony Finau to successfully defend his title after a remarkable finish at the RBC Canadian Open.

McIlroy birdied eight of his opening 12 holes and then squandered a three-shot lead during a low-scoring Sunday at Royal George's Golf and Country Club, only to finish strongly and register his 21st PGA Tour title.

The former world No 1 birdied his final two holes to close a brilliant eight-under 62 and end the week on 19 under, which was enough to give McIlroy a second win of the season and ensure he successfully defended a title for the first time in his PGA Tour career.

Finau closed a final-round 64 to finish two strokes back in second ahead of Thomas, who briefly shared the lead on the back nine, while Justin Rose claimed a share of fourth alongside Sam Burns after threatening PGA Tour history during his final-round 60.

McIlroy started the day tied for the lead but edged ahead with a 25-foot birdie at the first, only for Finau to respond by holing from 20 feet at the next to join the Northern Irishman on 12 under.

Image: Finau had to settle for second after a six-under 64 on Sunday

A brilliant approach at the fourth set up a four-foot birdie for McIlroy, while Finau picked up a shot from a similar distance at the next, before McIlroy moved back ahead with a delightful chip-in birdie from just off the sixth green.

McIlroy doubled his advantage when he flicked a wedge to tap-in range at the seventh, but Wyndham Clark - playing in the group ahead - took advantage of the par-five ninth to register a fifth birdie of the day and close the gap back to one.

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Rory McIlroy edges ahead as he looks to secure a second Canadian Open title

Thomas went on a four-birdie run from the sixth to get to 14 under, while Finau match the PGA champion's birdies at the ninth to join Clark in a three-way tie for second, as McIlroy got up and down from a greenside bunker to pick up a shot on the same hole and reach the turn two ahead.

McIlroy came a whisker away from a pitch-in eagle from thick rough at the driveable par-four 10th, with the kick-in birdie taking him to 17 under, although Thomas holed from 10 feet to continue his birdie streak to keep the gap at two.

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Rory McIlroy comes within centimetres of chipping in for an eagle on the 10th as he leads the field on the final round of the Canadian Open

A 40-foot birdie at the 12th was a sixth in seven holes for McIlroy to briefly move him three ahead with six to play, only for him to miss from three feet at the par-three next and see his lead cut to one again when Thomas birdied the 14th.

McIlroy missed a close-range birdie chance at the 15th and failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker to save par at the 16th, where Thomas scrambled a three to grab a share of the lead, only for the four-time winner to respond with a close-range birdie at the par-four next.

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Rory McIlroy closes in on the Canadian Open title with a birdie at the 17th

Thomas bogeyed the 17th to give McIlroy a two-shot cushion going to the par-four last, where he showcased his much-improved wedge play once again to fire his approach to four feet and roll in a winning birdie.

Finau posted six birdies in a bogey-free final day, holing from 40 feet at the last to end the week on 17 under, while Thomas finished four strokes back in third after also bogeying his final hole.

Rose carded three eagles and seven birdies during a special Sunday, although three bogeys left him settling for a 10-under 60 and saw him fall just short of carding only the 13th sub-60 round on the PGA Tour. Burns also claimed a share of fourth after a second successive 65.

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