McIlroy raised the jersey of Raptors guard Kyle Lowry after winning the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday. A miss and he would have thrown away one of his better opportunities this season to get into the Open.
McIlroy's distance control with his wedges has always been his Achilles heel, and the greens at Pebble are so tiny that you have to be spot on to have any chance.
The fourth-ranked golfer had never played a competitive round in Canada before.
Looking to get up and down in two, McDowell made life very hard for himself as he found himself 40 feet above the hole, staring a bogey in the face.
"I think what I'm proudest of is still playing with that freedom today going out being tied for the lead". 'It is definitely the plan to continue with the four-wedge set-up at Pebble, ' he said.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the victory is how well McIlroy putted on Hamilton's poa annua greens, the same surface he'll find next week at Pebble.
"Just looking at some of the names, even on just this side of the trophy, Sam Snead, Bobby Locke, Arnold Palmer, Tigers Woods, Nick Price, some of the greats of the game have won this trophy", said McIlroy. He won both of them.
McIlroy's second victory of the season followed his only missed cut of 2019 in the Memorial Tournament and gave the former world number one a timely confidence boost as he tries to claim a first major title since that 2014 US PGA win at Valhalla. Actually, it was anything but. Sure, it will be tougher again at Pebble - but this was an ideal rehearsal. Weekend rounds of 64 and 61 meant the Northern Irishman prevailed in Ontario by seven.
Lee6, the champion of last week's U.S. Women's Open who was playing two groups behind Thompson, lost her lead with three consecutive bogeys from Nos.
McIlroy's round was tied for best on the day with Jonathan Byrd, who was tied for ninth at 8 under.
"It's been an interesting debate on social media, there are a lot of people out there who certainly don't think that I deserve to get special exemptions from the R&A", McDowell said after finishing on 10-under-par. He looked ahead to the US Open drawing comparisons.
Sunday's triumph was McIlroy's 16th on the PGA Tour, and he has now won a national championship in six different countries - after previous successes at the US Open, British Open, Irish Open, Australian Open and Hong Kong Open.
Indeed, in terms of being in contention, his recent record in the majors overall has been poor for a player with his gifts.
In Canada, Thompson was tracking toward his first Top 40 finish from the beginning.
Time, surely, to prove a few doubters wrong.