Rory McIlroy won the CJ Cup at Congaree in South Carolina by one stroke on Sunday for his 23rd career PGA Tour victory and moved back into the #1 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.
It is McIlroy’s ninth time holding the top slot in the rankings in his career, which of course means he’s lost that ranking eight times previously. But this trip back to the top has probably been the most arduous for the four-time major champion.
Recalling the nadir of his journey, McIlroy said, “I had a really rough Ryder Cup. I think I was outside the top 10 in the world — it’s not a position that I’m used to being in.”
A three-putt bogey on the 18th hole was enough to claim the victory over second-place finisher 29-year-old Kurt Kitiyama, who was seeking his first PGA Tour win. Kitayama and McIlroy were tied standing on the 14th tee, but then McIlroy strung together three straight birdies to put himself firmly in control. Bogeys on the final two holes weren’t enough to trip him up, and he finished the week at 17-under.
It was technically a title defense for McIlroy, who won last year’s CJ Cup, held thousands of miles away at the Summit Club in Las Vegas.
Kitayama matched McIlroy’s 67 with a bogey-free round on Sunday, but couldn’t muster any birdies in his final six holes.
South Korea’s K.H. Lee shot a 68 to finish two strokes behind McIlroy for third at 15-under. Tommy Fleetwood and John Rahm rounded out the top five tied at 14-under on the week. Fleetwood’s 65 Sunday was second only to Taylor Montgomery’s 62.
The CJ Cup in South Carolina is a no-cut event, one of the few such tournaments on the PGA Tour Schedule. Only 78 players participated this week.