Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland simply repeated himself, twice in one day.
McIlroy shot 4-under-par 67 in the final round to beat Kurt Kitayama of Chico and UNLV by one stroke to win the CJ Cup in South Carolina for the second straight year, and regained the No. l spot in the World Golf Rankings at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, S.C.
“I’ve worked so hard over the last 12 months to get back to this place,” said McIlroy, who earned his 23rd PGA Tour victory, including the CJ Cup last season when it was played at The Summit Club in Las Vegas. “I feel like I’m enjoying the game as much as I ever have. I played with that joy and it’s definitely showed over these last few months. It’s a big achievement. I’m really proud of myself right now.
“This tournament last year was the start of me trying to build myself back up to this point. 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. I think it was just the steady climb back up to the summit of world golf, and that’s what it takes. And it’s not just me, it’s everyone that’s a part of my team. I just think about everyone that’s made a difference in my life, not over the last 12 months, but ever.”
McIlroy, the reigning FedEx Cup champion who took the top spot in the word for the ninth time in his career, built a three-stroke lead by making three straight birdies through No. 16 and held on to win despite making bogeys on the last two holes, finishing with a score of 17-under 267 with a third straight 67 after opening with 66.
Kitayama, who has won three times as a pro but not yet on the PGA Tour, closed with a bogey-free 67, but made only one birdie on the back nine, while K.H. Lee of South Korea was one more back in third after a bogey-free 67.
“That’s a tough group of guys to beat,” Kitayama, who has finished second three times on the big circuit, said of the big-name players on the leaderboard. “I just have to keep improving. It was a battle.
“I was kind of coming down the stretch there, I was grinding to get in with a bunch of pars, it felt like. Yeah, it was tough, but Rory came out with three in a row right there and that was tough to compete with.”
Fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, coming off his victory on the Open de Espana two weeks ago, closed with a 69 to finish three shots behind in a tie for fourth with Tommy Fleetwood of England, who made four birdies on each nine in a 67, while Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore holed out from 23 feet away on the fairway for an eagle at No. 12 and was five back in solo sixth after a 69.
Billy Horschel collected seven birdies in a 66 and finished six strokes behind in a tie for seventh with Sam Burns, who had four birdies on the back nine in a 67, Lee Hodges, who made four birdies and a single bogey in a 68, and Brendan Todd, who closed with a second straight 69.
Tenth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Open champion, tied for 13th after a second straight 68, ninth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal shot 72 to tie for 29th, eight-ranked Justin Thomas, the PGA champ, tied for 40th after a 69, and Scottie Scheffler, the Masters champion, who lost his No. 1 ranking to McIlroy and fell one spot in the rankings after closing with a 70 to tie for 45th.
The PGA Tour season continues this week with its sixth event, the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, with Lucas Herbert of Australia defending his title at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html