ANCASTER, Ontario -- Call it the zone, call it the flow. Rory McIlroy is familiar with the feeling that golf is easy, that he can swing freely and nothing bad will happen.
He first felt it at age 16 when he shot 61 at Royal Portrush in his native Northern Ireland, which will host this year's British Open. He experienced it during runaway victories at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. And he savored it again on Sunday en route to another 61, this one giving him a seven-shot victory in the Canadian Open.
"I think when you play, you get into stretches like this, you do get into some sort of flow, that flow state or in the zone or whatever anyone wants to call it. I definitely got into that a little bit today at the start of the back nine. It was the same that day at Portrush all those years ago,'' McIlroy said. "It's almost like you're out of your own body and looking at yourself play. For some times today that's how it felt. So if I could bottle that feeling and take it with me week to week, I would. Sort of comes and goes.''
McIlroy added the Canadian Open to his schedule for the first time largely because it was moved to the week before the U.S. Open. He turned the major-championship tuneup into a career highlight, becoming the sixth player to win national championships in the U.S., Britain and Canada. Lee Trevino (1971) and Tiger Woods (2000) are the only players to win all three in the same season, something McIlroy could do this year with victories next week at Pebble Beach and at Royal Portrush in July.
It was McIlroy's fifth win in a national open, following the U.S. Open (2011), Australian Open (2013), British Open (2014) and Irish Open (2016). McIlroy also counts the Hong Kong Open (2011) as part of his national championship tally.
"Some of the greats of the game have won this trophy. For me to put my name on it is something I'm very proud of,'' McIlroy said. "Part of the reason for playing here was I wanted my game to be in good shape for Pebble Beach, but [it] doesn't mean this tournament doesn't mean anything.''
Starting the day in a three-way tie for the lead, McIlroy ended any suspense about who would emerge as the champion with five birdies in his first seven holes, none from longer than 8 feet.
The only question on the back nine was whether McIlroy would shoot the 11th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history. He made four straight birdies from Nos. 11-14, and a bogey on the par-3 16th stalled him only momentarily. He followed with a 7-iron from 196 yards to 2½ feet for eagle on the par-5 17th to get to 10 under at par-70 Hamilton Golf and Country Club.
But he missed the green on the par-4 18th and his bunker shot went long. He ended up tapping in for bogey to finish at a tournament-record 22-under 258. The 61 equaled the low round of McIlroy's PGA Tour career.
McIlroy was five shots off the lead entering the weekend and shot 64 on Saturday before finding another gear on Sunday.
"I think what I'm proudest of is still playing with that freedom today going out being tied for the lead. Just putting my foot down and really making this tournament mine,'' McIlroy said. "I think by the time I got to the 14th tee I wasn't really thinking of winning the tournament. I was thinking of trying to shoot 59. I had to reassess my goals a little bit in the middle of that back nine.''
He settled for his 16th PGA Tour victory and 25th win worldwide, and the fourth by at least seven shots.