Canadian Open announces Rory McIlroy will play 2019 event in Hamilton

Northern-Ireland's-Rory-McIlroy-tees-off-on-the-14th-hole-during-the-first-round-of-the-Abu-Dhabi-Championship-golf-tournament-in-Abu-Dhabi,-United-Arab-Emirates,-Thursday,-Jan.-18,-2018.-(Kamran-Jebreili/AP)

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy. (Kamran Jebreili/AP)

Rory McIlroy is coming to Canada.

Fresh off his Players Championship victory last week, RBC and Golf Canada announced Thursday that McIlroy will play in this year’s RBC Canadian Open, June 3-9 at Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

It will mark the first time that McIlroy, a 15-time PGA Tour winner, four-time major champion and the No.4 ranked player in the world, will tee it up at the Canadian Open.

“I‘m really excited to play in my first RBC Canadian Open,” said McIlroy in a prepared statement provided to Sportsnet. “I’ve had the opportunity to see the passion that Canada has for our sport and I look forward to seeing the energy of Canadian golf fans first hand.”

Adding the Ulsterman to the field is the biggest pre-tournament splash the event could make – in the non-Tiger Woods division.

“Rory is one of the game’s most accomplished and iconic young stars – his win at The Players Championship this past weekend was incredible,” said Mary DePaoli, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, RBC, in an announcement. “We are so pleased that he has added the 2019 RBC Canadian Open to his schedule and are looking forward to giving him a warm welcome to Canada for his first-ever start at the tournament.”

Earlier this week, the Canadian Open announced that Florida Georgia Line and the Glorious Sons will headline a new concert series at the event this summer.

It is the first time in 10 years that Canada’s men’s golf championship will have concerts included in the week-long event.

It’s also been a pretty good first run for Bryan Crawford, who was installed as tournament director last July. Crawford tells Sportsnet McIlroy was someone tournament organizers targeted early on.

“Personally I feel like there aren’t very many (names) bigger,” says Crawford. “It’s a short list. To add a guy who is on or near the top of that list is pretty special.”

A former member of the Toronto Argonauts, Crawford spent three years on the leadership team of Canada Basketball before being hired by Golf Canada. It’s been a quick learning curve for him, but the first Canadian Open under his watch won’t be too much of a grind – his home is five minutes from Hamilton Golf and Country Club.

To see McIlroy confirmed for the event is something to celebrate, he says.

“He’s obviously one of the biggest names in golf. He is, I would say, one of a very select group of players that could be considered a global ambassador to the game,” says Crawford, who suggests McIlroy’s commitment is a direct result of the Canadian Open’s new date on the PGA Tour schedule the week prior to the U.S. Open.

The Canadian Open purse has increased as well for 2019, to US$7.6 million from $6.4 million.

In world No. 1 Dustin Johnson — who previously committed to the event — and McIlroy, the Open will feature at least two of the world’s top-5 ranked players, with the potential for more to come.

A source told Sportsnet that conversations are ongoing between Canadian Open organizers and world No. 3 Brooks Koepka. Ditto Phil Mickelson, who frequently plays the week prior to the U.S. Open.

But regardless of how many other top stars join McIlroy in Hamilton, his presence in the field this year is a major shot in the arm for the event and tournament organizers.

“We can now attract a player of Rory’s caliber to be a part of it and compete in the field,” says Crawford of the momentum behind this year’s Canadian Open. “It’s huge for the casual golf fan, but even just the sports fan in Canada would know that name and can be excited about being a part of what we have to offer this year.”

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