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.
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 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 lifetime membership to the PGA Tour with his 20th Tour title. He needs to play 15 years on the Tour before the lifetime membership becomes active; he started his 13th this week.
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 begore cooling off until the final hole.
Fowler, the overnight leader by two shots, had his best finish since tying for second in the 2019 Honda Classic, which came one month after he won the most recent of his five PGA Tour titles at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Fowler only had three top-10s the past two seasons and said he is now back to thinking about winning instead of thinking about the process of getting back to his former ways. He upped his lead to three with a birdie on the first and led by three before making a double from the desert on the par-5 6th and then three-putting the 10th to fall behind.
Earlier in the week, McIlroy, who had fallen to No. 14 in the world heading into the CJ Cup, said when he plays his best, he’s the best player in the game. Well, he looked in full flight quite a bit this week at The Summit and seems more than capable of becoming No. 1 in the world once again.
McIlroy, a winner earlier this year at the Wells Fargo Championship, got into contention with consecutive bogey-free rounds, shooting 67 in the second round and 62 in the third. It was the first time he recorded consecutive bogey-free rounds since 2019.
With little wind all week and the course offering little defense except for the surrounding desert, the players held a birdie and eagle festival and combined to average 68.5 per round for the week.
There were 18 scores of 65 or better, including two 61s and five 62s.
Keith Mitchell, who shot 62-64 to gain a five-shot lead through 54 holes, closed with a 67 to finish at 22 under alongside Fowler.
Four players finished at 21 under, including Adam Scott (69) and Talor Gooch, who holed out from 94 yards for eagle on the last to polish off a 62.