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Rory McIlroy shoots 71 after ‘most uncomfortable’ press conference on Wednesday

It’s been a hectic week for Rory McIlroy.

Two days ahead of his three-peat bid at the RBC Canadian Open, a bombshell was dropped that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour are joining forces with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which bankrolls LIV Golf.

The Northern Irishman has been the PGA Tour’s staunchest defender the past year, and Wednesday he once again met with the media, a press conference he called, “the most uncomfortable I’ve felt in the last 12 months.”

After that, however, McIlroy was finally able to knock the weight off his shoulders and focus on becoming the first player to three-peat on Tour since Steve Stricker at the 2011 John Deere Classic.

Full-field scores from the RBC Canadian Open

“I got a good night’s sleep last night,” McIlroy said after a first-round 1-under 71. “So it was nice to sort of recharge the batteries. I would say my energy levels on Tuesday and Wednesday were diminishing quite quickly. But I slept well last night and honestly felt — it was an early start this morning. Alarm went at 4:15. But I felt good out there.”

This week’s shocking news was still on McIlroy’s mind after he teed off Thursday morning, but he quickly redirected his focus to his round.

“Rosie (Justin Rose, his playing partner) and I said, ‘All right, no chatting until lunch so that we can actually concentrate on what we’re doing out there,’” McIlroy said. “We started to get in a conversation walking down the first and we’re like, ‘No, let’s stop this. Let’s just focus on our golf and we’ll say what we want to say when we get inside.’ So it was nice to play a round of golf and focus on something else for those five hours we were out there.”

Rory McIlroy said the PGA Tour-PIF merger is a positive thing, on the whole, but he can’t help feeling “like a sacrificial lamb.”

Those five hours, though, didn’t go as McIlroy, the world No. 3, may have hoped. He sits four shots off the opening lead, but lost strokes off the tee, tee to green, approach and around the green. He also hit only six of 15 fairways.

“Need to do a better job of just putting my ball in play off the tee,” he said. “Then from there, the golf course is still quite scoreable.”

McIlroy, 34, is looking for his first Tour win since October’s CJ Cup. He finished T-7 in his last two starts at the PGA Championship and the Memorial. He played in the final group Sunday at Muirfield Village but shot a final-round 75.

Trying to put that round in his rear-view, he was hoping to head into next week’s U.S. Open with a victory under his belt. But Tuesday’s curveball certainly made that task more difficult.

However, after an exhausting 48 hours, McIlroy’s attention is again on his scorecard — not what the PGA Tour’s future may look like.

“This is business and my job is playing golf, at the end of the day,” he said. “So the more that I can focus on that and focus on the birdies and the bogeys instead of the stuff that’s happened in the board room, I’ll be much happier.”