Rory McIlroy is back at the summit of golf, as his successful defence of the CJ Cup has seen him ascend to the world No. 1 ranking.
The Northern Irishman - who first got to world No. 1 in 2012 - had been chipping away at Scottie Scheffler’s lead for months, and a sequence of outcomes presented themselves for him to climb back above this year’s Masters champion.
With Scheffler out of contention, a win for McIlroy at Congaree Golf Club would get the job done - and he did it in some style.
The CJ Cup
World No. 1 spot in McIlroy's sights as he takes lead of CJ Cup heading into final round
22/10/2022 AT 22:43
He carded a closing round of 67 to secure a one-shot win over Kurt Kitayama - with Jon Rahm two further back after the Spaniard failed to mount the challenge that many expected him to.
"It feels great to go out there with the lead, shoot a great score and get the win,” McIlroy said. "It is an awesome way to start the season and the continuation of the way I have been playing.”
On becoming world No. 1 for a ninth time, he said: "It means a lot. I have worked so hard over the last 12 months to get myself back to this place.
"I feel like I am enjoying the game as much as I ever have. I absolutely love the game of golf. I go out there and play with that joy. It has definitely showed over these last 12 months.
"It feels awesome. I am looking forward to celebrating with my team as it is a big achievement, I am very proud of myself.
"The journey of trying to get the best out of myself is the satisfying thing. I never feel like I have figured this game out, I don’t think I ever will figure it out, but everyday I wake up trying to get closer.”

Final Leaderboard

  • 1. Rory McIlroy, 17-under
  • 2. Kurt Kitayama, 16-under
  • 3. KH Lee, 15-under
  • T4. Jon Rahm, 14-under
  • T4. Tommy Fleetwood, 14-uner
  • 6. Aaron Wise, 12-under
  • T7. Billy Horschel, 11-under
  • T7. Sam Burns, 11-under
  • T7. Lee Hodges, 11-under
  • T7. Brendon Todd, 11-under
McIlroy cruised to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday, setting up a duel with Rahm who made a rapid start to his final round with birdies on two, four and five.
The defending champion said on Saturday evening that he would set himself a target score, and ignore what the rest of the field were doing.
That is easier said than done, but he looked unfazed as he rolled in a birdie putt on two, and got up and down from a bunker on four for another birdie.
When things did go a little awry, as was the case when he came perilously close to finding the water with his tee shot on the fifth, he got up and down for par after being stood with his feet in the hazard.
Rahm was in the group in front of McIlroy. They were tied for the lead on the sixth tee. They walked off the green with the former two to the good. A three-putt bogey had steam coming out of Rahm’s ears, with his mistake compounded by McIlroy rolling in his third birdie of the round.

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McIlroy’s golf has been other-worldly for months, but he proved he is human with a three-putt bogey on the eighth. After a 362-yard tee shot that split the fairway, it was a surprise.
Kitayama rolled in a birdie on the ninth to draw level with McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard, and Rahm made it a three-way tie with a birdie on 12.
From there, Rahm fell away as some wayward shots and slices of bad luck, such as a plugged lie in the sand, saw him slip out of contention.
McIlroy’s misses off the tee this week have been quick hooks, and he leaked two that way on 11 and 12. He escaped with a par on 11 and made a birdie on 12 after pulling decent lies on both occasions.
Kitayama’s approach play was a little scruffy, in contrast to McIlroy. That proved telling on the 14th, as McIlroy fired a tee shot to 14 feet and rolled in the birdie to take the lead.
That advantage was extended to two shots on the 15th. After his tee shot on the driveable par-four found the sand at the front of the hole, McIlroy splashed out to three feet and nudged it down the hill for a bridle.
At the same hole the wind was taken from Kitayama’s sails. He produced the best drive of the day to find the green. It turned out to be a bad play, as his putt down the hill for eagle was lightning fast and raced seven feet beyond the hole. The return effort lipped out, to leave him two behind McIlroy.
McIlroy had his game-face on throughout the day, knowing what was at stake, and a fist pump greeted his birdie putt on 16 to open up the lead to three shots.
A surprise bogey on 17 saw him step on the 18th tee with a two-shot cushion. He ultimately needed it but a bogey on the final hole still enabled him to wrap up his 23rd win on the PGA Tour, the world No. 1 ranking and a spot alongside Tiger Woods in the history books by joining the 15-time major champion as the only reigning FedEx Cup champion to win on his first start of the following season.
“I think the birdie on 14 was the real turning point,” McIlroy said. “To make two there felt I picked up at least a shot and a half on the field. I knew 15 was birdieable and 16 was a bonus to give me a cushion, which I ultimately needed on the last two holes.”
His 23rd win on the PGA Tour takes him past Raymond Floyd, with Gary Player and Dustin Johnson next in his sights on 24.
Tommy Fleetwood's form is trending in the right direction and he produced one of the best rounds of the day, a 65, to get to 14-under.
Taylor Montgomery was the hottest player on the course on Sunday, as a nine-under 62 took him to that score for the week.
The CJ Cup
Rahm delighted with putting as he takes CJ Cup lead with course-record score
21/10/2022 AT 22:23
The CJ Cup
Rahm surges into lead at CJ Cup, McIlroy makes miracle birdie to keep in touch
21/10/2022 AT 22:14