LAS VEGAS – Rory McIlroy said the CJ Cup at The Summit provided a nice, gentle introduction to his season in America’s Playground, the limited field of 78 players, docile layout and no cut very appealing.
Turned out it served up a satisfying ending, too.
And proved pivotal, as well, as Rory McIlroy is back to being Rory McIlroy again.
On a sun-splashed, windless Sunday in the desert 10 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, McIlroy held off Collin Morikawa and Rickie Fowler to win the par-busting shootout. With a loud eagle on the 13th to grab the lead he never relinquished, the four-time major winner shot a closing 6-under-par 66 to finish at 25 under and one shot clear of the onrushing Morikawa and three clear of a rejuvenated Fowler.
Three weeks after being moved to tears on the final day of Europe’s crushing defeat to the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, McIlroy earned his 20th PGA Tour title at age 32. That will reward him with lifetime membership on the PGA Tour, but he needs to play 15 years before becoming a lifetime member; he started his 13th this week.
“I was really disappointed with how I played (at the Ryder Cup),” McIlroy said. “I get more emotional thinking about that than even thinking about this. There was a lot of reflection the last couple 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. I know that when I do the things that I do well, this is what I’m capable of. I’m capable of winning a lot of events on the PGA Tour and being the best player in the world.
“It’s just a matter of me getting back to playing golf and playing golf my way. That starts with being creative and being visual and maybe sort of sifting through the technical thoughts and not maybe being as technical with it.”
Morikawa, who was 11 shots back after 36 holes and trailed by seven entering the final round, went out in 7-under 29 and finished with an eagle to shoot 62. The two-time major winner and a Summit member was 8 under through 11 holes before cooling off until the final hole.
“Whenever you shoot 62 you’re always going to be pleased, but I thought I left a few out there, especially with some putts. But overall I’m very pleased the way this kind of last 18 went, especially at a course that I’ve played a lot,” said Morikawa, who was trying to win his sixth PGA Tour title in 54 starts. “I felt very comfortable and it’s kind of a good way to start the season.