Rory McIlroy regained the world No.1 spot for the first time since 2020 after the 33-year-old successfully defended the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup in South Carolina.
Leading by one at the start of the final round at Congaree Golf Club, McIlroy carded a brilliant four-under 67, with four birdies in a five-hole stretch on his back nine helping him pull clear of the chasing pack.
Playing the 17th hole with a three-shot lead, McIlroy had the luxury of being able him to drop shots at both the final two holes and still finish one clear of playing partner Kurt Kitayama, with KH Lee claiming third spot ahead of Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood, with the latter closing with a 65.
McIlroy’s third win of the year, and 23rd PGA Tour title of his career, sees him become the first FedEx Cup champion to begin his PGA Tour season with a victory since Tiger Woods in 2008, with his latest success taking him above Scottie Scheffler at the top of the world rankings.
Speaking straight after the final round, a visibly emotional McIlroy said: “It feels great to go out there with a lead, shoot a great score, play really well, and get the win. It’s an awesome way to start the season. I feel like it has been a continuation of how I feel like I’ve been playing over the last few months.
“I’ve worked so hard over the last 12 months to get myself back to this place. I feel like I’m enjoying the game as much as I ever have. I absolutely love the game of golf and I think that when I go out there and I play with that joy, it’s definitely showed over these last 12 months.”
McIlroy’s next scheduled appearance is at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, from November 17-20, where he will have a chance to win his fourth Race to Dubai title.