Rory McIlroy Wins The CJ CUP, 20th Career PGA Tour Title

Rory McIlroy Wins The CJ Cup @ Summit 2021
Rory McIlroy poses with the trophy after winning THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Alex Goodlett via Getty Images for CJ Cup)

Rory McIlroy is officially a 20-tournament winner on the PGA Tour!

With a victory at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT, the pride of Northern Ireland became the 39th player in Tour history to achieve that honor, fourth among active players (if Tiger Woods can even be called an “active player”), and is just the sixth golfer in Tour history to hit that mark before the age of 33 (McIlroy is 32).

Twenty wins is a significant number on Tour because any player with 20 victories and at least 15 seasons played are awarded lifetime membership. McIlroy is currently in his 13th season meaning he becomes a lifetime member if he sticks around for two more years. He is expected to do so.

That victory came in thrilling fashion too, as he closed the week in Las Vegas with a final-round 6-under 66 to reach 25-under for the week and clip a fast-charging Collin Morikawa by a single stroke. The win comes in McIlroy’s first start of the 2021-22 season, the first time he has had such a result in a season debut.

Beginning the final round in second place, two strokes behind a slumping Rickie Fowler, Rory had no choice, but to go low. The Summit Club was absolutely eviscerated by a deep and talented field on Sunday, with 14 of the 78 players in the field shooting 7-under 65 or better, and an additional eight matching McIlroy’s 66. McIlroy himself got into this position by shooting an absurd 10-under 62 the round prior.

Rickie Fowler The CJ Cup
Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the 14th tee during the final round of THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Alex Goodlett via Getty Images for CJ Cup)

Early on, it looked like it might be Fowler’s day, as the 32-year-old birdied the first and fourth holes to take a three-stroke lead. It was a much-needed development for Fowler, who averaged 7.8 top-10s per season from 2014 to 2019, but had just one in 24 starts last season, and failed to qualify for both The Masters and the U.S. Open. He was seeking his first victory since the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Unfortunately for Fowler and his legion of fans, his momentum was obliterated when he hit his second shot on the par-5 7th into the native area, leading to an untimely double-bogey, and suddenly making the tournament a free-for-all.

In the meantime, Morikawa, the defending Open Championship winner, began the final day in 14th place, seven shots behind Fowler, but went crazy on his front nine with seven birdies to surge to the top of the leaderboard. He added another two holes later to reach 8-under through 11 holes.

Coming off his incredible Saturday, McIlroy kept his foot on the gas with four front-nine birdies, and just a single blemish, a three-putt bogey on the par-4 fourth hole. McIlroy first jumped ahead of Fowler with a birdie on 8, before Fowler birdied 9 to keep the two tied at the turn, with many chasers.

Entangled in a back-nine battle with mainly Morikawa and Fowler, the defining moment of the tournament came on the par-5 14th, when McIlroy sunk an eagle putt from well off the green (35 feet away) to suddenly take a three-stroke lead with just four holes to play.

Just as it appeared the tournament was essentially locked-up, Morikawa, several groups ahead, hit a spectacular approach on the par-5 18th to six feet from the hole, and made the putt for eagle. McIlroy’s lead was cut to one with three to go.

Rickie Fowler The CJ Cup
Rickie Fowler waits on the 17th green during the final round of THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Alex Goodlett via Getty Images for CJ Cup)

Pars on each of the final four holes ended up being enough for McIlroy, however, as Fowler was unable to make up anywhere near enough ground late, and Morikawa just ran out of holes. Rory landed his third shot on 18 to 14 feet, and then two-putted for the win.

Morikawa’s shot a 10-under 62 in the final round which, shockingly, was not even the low round for the day. Fowler, meanwhile, closed with an immensely disappointing 1-under 71, which had to feel several strokes over par when compared with all that was going on around him. A top-10 player just a few seasons ago, Fowler had fallen all the way to 128th in the world rankings coming into the week.

Fowler could have finished solo-third with a birdie on 18, but a horrific lag putt from 92 feet set up a 30-foot birdie putt that he was unable to convert. He shared third place with Keith Mitchell, who had held the 36-hole lead, and was ahead by as many as five strokes early on Saturday.

McIlroy had come into the week with his last action being a disappointing week at the Ryder Cup for the losing Ryder Cup team, where he was soundly defeated in all three matches he played over the first two days, before knocking off Xander Schauffele in Sunday Singles. McIlroy later stated that his showdown with Schauffele allowed to believe in his own play again. He made numerous post-round comments about needing to just “be himself.”


CJ Cup Leaderboard: Top 10

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Rory McIlroy -25 (-6)
2. Collin Morikawa -24 (-10)
3. Keith Mitchell -22 (-5)
3. Rickie Fowler -22 (-1)
5. Talor Gooch -21 (-10)
5. Aaron Wise -21 (-6)
5. Sam Burns -21 (-6)
5. Adam Scott -21 (-3)
9. Sungjae Im -20 (-8)
9. Gary Woodland -20 (-7)
9. Harry Higgs -20 (-5)
9. Cameron Smith -20 (-4)
9. Robert Streb -20 (-2)

CJ Cup: Other Notables

14. Webb Simpson -19 (-7)
14. Abraham Ancer -19 (-1)
18. Xander Schauffele -18 (-9)
18. Justin Thomas -18 (-8)
18. Jordan Spieth -18 (-5)
18. Viktor Hovland -18 (-5)
18. Ian Poulter (-2)
18. Tyrrell Hatton -18 (-1)
25. Sergio Garcia -17 (-5)
25. Paul Casey -17 (-4)
38. Scottie Scheffler -15 (-7)
38. Louis Oosthuizen -15 (-5)
38. Brooks Koepka -14 (-4)
45. Tony Finau -14 (-7)
45. Dustin Johnson -14 (-6)
45. Joaquin Niemann -14 (-1)
54. Shane Lowry -12 (-8)
54. Jason Kokrak -12 (-4)
54. Kevin Kisner -12 (-2)
56. Justin Rose -11 (-4)
59. Hideki Matsuyama -10 (-4)
64. Jason Day -8 (-7)
68. Patrick Reed -7 (-1)
72. Max Homa -6 (+3)


How Rory McIlroy Won THE CJ CUP

Rory McIlroy Wins The CJ Cup @ Summit 2021
Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the 15th green during the final round of THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images)

After ending an extended winless drought (by his standards anyway) with a win at the Wells Fargo Championship in March, Rory had been very hit-or-miss and was irrelevant in the majors. He kept himself in the tournament by opening 68-67 before his 62 in the third round rocketed him into second place with 18 holes to go.

McIlroy’s 24 birdies ranked ninth in the field for the week, and he also added three eagles, and had just three holes of bogey or worse. His only hole of “worse” was a triple-bogey on 17 in round 1, which he was able to overcome.

Surprisingly, his best club for the week might have been his putter, as he led the field in strokes gained: putting, something that has been a weakness in his game for much of his storied career. He was also second in the field in both strokes gained: off-the-tee and scrambling. He was fifth in strokes gained: around-the-green, and while he did not rate spectacularly tee-to-green, that was mostly due to some first-round struggles.

McIlroy’s Winning Numbers

Distance: 321.2 yards (5th)
Fairways: 37/56, 66.07% (T38)
Greens: 54/72, 75.0% (T33)
Putts/GIR: 1.648 (19th)
SG: Off Tee: 5.463 (2nd)
SG: Approach Green: -3.630 (67th)
SG: Around Green: 2.871 (5th)
SG: Putting: 6.028 (1st)
SG: Tee to Green: 4.704 (17th)
SG: Total: 10.731 (1st)


What It Means For Rory

Rory McIlroy Wins The CJ Cup @ Summit 2021
Rory McIlroy waves in celebration after winning THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images)

If you take Rory at his word, the win should be enormous for his confidence. He says he believes he is the best in the world at his best, and he may have found the formula to get back to his previous world No. 1 form.

That confidence should be especially important in next season’s majors, if he is able to keep momentum for that long. Rory has won four career major championships, but none since the 2014 PGA Championship.

The win jumps McIlroy from 14th to 8th in the world rankings, and he is fourth in the FedExCup standings. His two FedExCup titles ties Tiger Woods for most all-time.

McIlroy’s 2021-22 Season

Starts: 1
Cuts Made: 1
Wins: 1 (The CJ Cup)
Money: $1,755,000 (1st)
FedExCup: 500 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 14/8


Sunday’s Stars

Emiliano Grillo The CJ Cup
Emiliano Grillo plays his shot from the 4th tee during the final round of THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images)

As tremendous as Rory’s 66 was, it only tied for the 15th best score in the Sunday field.

The best? That came from Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who exploded down the stretch with three birdies and two eagles over his final six holes to shoot an 11-under 61, tying the low round for the week.

The 61 propelled him a field-high 38 spots up the final leaderboard, from T56 to T18.

One other player managed double-digits under par on Sunday, that being Talor Gooch who secured a T5 finish with his 10-under 62.

Gooch began the final day in a share of 36th place, but sprinted out of the games with birdies on five of his first six holes. The 29-year-old finished solo-fifth in this event last season.

Less surprising than Grillo or Gooch was the 9-under 63 shot by recent Olympic Gold Medal winner Xander Schauffele. The world No. 5 opened his week with three straight 3-under 69s, which had him well out of contention through 54 holes. His 62 jumped him 28 spots from T46 to T18.


Sunday’s Stumbles

Abraham Ancer The CJ Cup 2021
Abraham Ancer chips to a green during the final round of THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images)

Groups went out in threesomes for the entirety of THE CJ CUP, and the man who reached the final group with McIlroy and Fowler was one of the most disappointing players on Sunday.

Abraham Ancer was at 18-under and three behind Fowler through 54 holes, but very much underwhelmed in round 4 with a 1-under 71.

Ancer, who won his first career Tour event in August (WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational) basically saw his chances end when a bogey on the par-4 14th dropped him to even for the day. His 71 dropped him from third to T14.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton turned 30 on Thursday, and had himself in good position through three rounds, putting himself in sixth place and just four back of Fowler.

Hatton was not able to get much going on Sunday, however, with a so-so front-nine, and his round went completely off the rails when he sent his drive on the par-4 13th out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey. His 1-under 71 dropped him 12 spots into a share of 18th place.

It was a disastrous week for former Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel. With a 3-over 75 on Sunday, he finished 7-over for the week, which finished dead last by seven strokes.

Schwartzel was the only player to finish the week over par, and he had zero round under par for the week. Among the rest of the 78-man field, only two other players had multiple rounds over par with Brian Harman and Branden Grace having two under-par rounds apiece.

The rest of the field had at least three rounds under par each. He was last in the field in bogeys, strokes gained: approach-the-green, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and greens in regulation.


Quotable

Rory McIlroy Wins The CJ Cup @ Summit 2021
Rory McIlroy walks the 17th hole during the final round of THE CJ CUP at The Summit Club on Oct 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Christian Petersen via Getty Images)
Reflection

“There was a lot of reflection the last couple of weeks, and this is what I need to do. I just need to play golf, I need to simplify it, I need to just be me.

“I think for the last few months, I was maybe trying to be someone else to try to get better, and I sort of realized that being me is enough, and being me, I can do things like this.”
Rory McIlroy, THE CJ CUP Champion

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