LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Rory McIlroy captured his 20th career US PGA Tour title on Sunday, firing a six-under par 66 to win the CJ Cup by one stroke over Collin Morikawa.
Disappointed by a poor performance at last month’s Ryder Cup and his struggles after trying to match the long-distance driving of Bryson DeChambeau, the 32-year-old from Northern Ireland showed the form that made him a four-time major champion.
“For the last few months, I was trying to be someone else,” McIlroy said. “I realise that being me is enough and that’s enough to do things like this.”
McIlroy rolled in an eagle putt from just inside 35 feet at the par-5 14th and parred the last four holes to finish on 25-under par 263 at the Summit Club in Las Vegas.
McIlroy said the sting of his Ryder Cup flop in Europe’s record 19-9 loss inspired his improved play. “It was huge. It really was,” McIlroy said. “I was disappointed with how I played. I get more emotional thinking about that than about this (win).”
After his best round in two years with a 62 on Saturday, McIlroy followed with a near-perfect run to claim his 29th worldwide victory and become only the 39th player with 20 US PGA wins.
“It’s quite an achievement,” McIlroy said. “I still need a couple more years on tour to get that lifetime exemption but at least I’ve got the 20 wins. It’s a great achievement.”
Since World War II, only Vijay Singh and Gary Player have more US PGA victories than McIlroy among players from outside the United States.
Two-time major winner Morikawa, who finished with an eagle, was second on 264 after a closing 62 with fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Keith Mitchell third on 266.
The event was moved from South Korea for a second consecutive year due to coronavirus pandemic travel issues. McIlroy, ranked 14th, won his second title of the year, having snapped an 18-month win drought in May with his third career triumph at Quail Hollow, and first of the 2021-22 season.
“I’ve been close before to opening my season with a win,” he said. “It’s great. It feels really good, some validation of what I’ve done the last few weeks. Just keep moving forward.”
Morikawa was pleased with his week despite settling for second.
“It has been an awesome start to the season,” he said.
Fowler led by three early Sunday but could not match McIlroy’s pace, shooting 71. World number 128 Fowler has not won since taking his fifth PGA title at the 2019
“Obviously disappointed,” Fowler said. “But this is a big step in the right direction from where I’ve been in the past couple years.”
Fowler rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth to share the lead at 22-under with McIlroy and Morikawa, but stumbled back with a three-putt bogey at the 10th.
McIlroy drove the green at the par-4 12th and rolled in a four-foot birdie putt to seize the lead alone.
McIlroy found the rough at the par-5 14th and came up just short of the green but rolled the ball into the cup from just inside 35 feet for eagle to reach 25-under and lead by three.
Morikawa sank an eagle putt at the par-5 18th from just inside seven feet to pull within one, but McIlroy closed with four pars to seal the victory.
Fowler teed off with a two-stroke lead over McIlroy and dropped his approach inches from the cup to set up a birdie on the opening hole to lead by three.
But McIlroy sank an 11-foot birdie putt at the par-3 second and had a tap-in birdie at the par-5 third.
Fowler birdied the fourth but took a double bogey at the par-5 sixth while McIlroy birdied from just outside four feet to share the lead.
McIlroy birdied the eighth to reach 22-under to match Morikawa’s birdie at the par-3 11th and share the lead.