Rory McIlroy won last year's RBC Canadian Open for his 21st career win on the PGA Tour and headed to the interview room with something to say.
"This is a day I'll remember for a long, long time," the Northern Irishman said. "Twenty-one PGA Tour wins, one more than somebody else."
The "somebody else" was Greg Norman. The gripe was with LIV Golf, where Norman was the figurehead at the time. The same week that the PGA Tour made its annual trip north of the border, LIV held its debut event outside London.
Oh, the things that can change in one year.
The future of the game of golf is once again the topic du jour as the PGA Tour returns to the RBC Canadian Open this week at Oakdale Golf Country Club in Toronto.
This time, the PGA Tour is the one accepting investment from Saudi Arabia, as tour commissioner Jay Monahan dropped the unexpected news Tuesday morning that the PGA and DP World tours will merge commercial enterprises with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and receive a capital investment from them.
McIlroy said Wednesday he felt like a "sacrificial lamb" after going to bat for Monahan and the integrity of the PGA Tour. He also said he's come to terms with the Saudis' insistence on pouring money into the sport.
"(Tuesday) was tough. I think the shock of it, the surprise of it," McIlroy said. "I wasn't looking forward to this (press conference), to be honest with you. But once we all get done here and you write your stories and say what you say, what I say or quote me or whatever it is, I'm going to go to the range and do some practice and try to get ready for a golf tournament."
The Canadian Open has been through the ringer. Canada's national open missed two straight years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When it returned in 2022, LIV stole the headlines.
"I can't help but feel sad for the Canadian Open, once again, that this news drops Tuesday of what is our national open, a very important event for golf in Canada and hopefully viewed from the PGA Tour's standpoint as an important event to them," Adam Hadwin of Canada said. "Now once again we're overshadowed ... most likely for the entire week.
"My hope is that we end up with hopefully myself -- if not myself, two or three other Canadians in contention, with Rory, with Justin Rose, with Tyrrell (Hatton), with these guys, these top players that are here and we can put the emphasis back on the event, that what happened last year. But I can't help but feel for the event now."
Hadwin is one of 21 Canadians in the field, with world No. 29 Corey Conners the highest-ranked among them. A Canadian player hasn't won the event since Pat Fletcher in 1954.
McIlroy is the two-time defending champ (2019, 2022), but he won those tournaments at two different courses. Oakdale is hosting the event for the first time, playing as a par 72 of roughly 7,200 yards.
With many players resting up for next week's U.S. Open, the field only includes 10 of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and none of the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings. Matt Fitzpatrick of England, Sam Burns, Cameron Young and Shane Lowry of Ireland are among the other notables competing.
Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, the former No. 1 amateur in the world, will make his professional debut in Toronto. He'll play alongside Englishmen Fitzpatrick and Hatton in one of the marquee groups.
One more thing to monitor will be the air quality.
Wildfires in nearby Quebec have spread smoke across the Northeast U.S. and Ontario, where the course is located. The Canadian Open's official Twitter account said experts are on site monitoring the air quality and "delays are always a possibility given we are an outdoor event."
--Field Level Media