Rory McIlroy back to stunning best as he blows away star-studded field 1 month ago

Rory McIlroy back to stunning best as he blows away star-studded field

"When Rory is playing like this, it's like he's brought a gun to a knife fight!"

Rory McIlroy stormed to victory at the $9.75m CJ Cup, in Las Vegas, to capture his 20th PGA Tour title and join and elite group.

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Having struggled to find his 'A' game at The Ryder Cup, only a few weeks back, the Northern Irishman just got better, better and better. He started his challenge, at Summit Golf Course in Las Vegas, with 68, went one better on Friday then carded an outrageous 62 on Saturday.

That was still only enough to start the final day two strokes back from another man on redemption road - Rickie Fowler. The American, who pushed McIlroy close on his way to Open glory in 2014, had got a special invite to the CJ Cup and was another man back to his best.

McIlroy, though, was not going to be denied.

To emphasise just how good the 32-year-old was, reigning Open champion Collin Morikawa put up a scarcely believable -10 final round of 62 to finish on -24 and he was still left in the dust. Other big-hitters that could not keep up McIlroy's blistering pace were Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka and walking Ryder Cup hot-streak Scottie Scheffler.

The Holywood native was driving it imperiously and his putter was red-hot. With those two parts of his game locked in, McIlroy was untouchable.

Webb Simpson made an early charge at the lead - picking up six shots over his front nine - and Fowler carded an early birdie, but McIlroy soon crashed the party:

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There was a bogey on the fourth, to soften McIlroy's cough, but he got back on course with birdies on six and eight. Morikawa was starting to make strides and Fowler was still in contention. As he and McIlroy reached the turn, they shared a -22 under lead with Morikawa.

A birdie on the 12th edged the four-time Major winner ahead, though, and he saved a gut-punch for those chasers on the 14th. Opting to putt from off the green, the call looked bang-on when he drained a long one for eagle.

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Summit is the home course for Morikawa, the two-time Major winner, and he was three shots back after that McIlroy eagle. However, he responded with an eagle of his own, on 18, to post a clubhouse lead of -24. He then told NBC:

"Rory's a great player. He's one of the best in the world for a reason, but you never know."

Over the past few years, as McIlroy has struggled to get back to his best, the latter part of that statement may have been true. This week in Las Vegas, it was nothing of the sort.

Going with a pinger of a three-wood off the tee, McIlroy gave himself looks at birdie on 16 and 17. He could have given himself a procession up the 18th, but he had to settle for pars. He was one clear as he teed up on 18. Out came the trusty three-wood and he found the fairway.

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He played it conservatively with a lay-up to within 118 yards with his second on the par-five closer. He put his third shot within 15-feet and gave himself two putts to win his second tournament of 2021 [after the Wells Fargo Championship]. He rolled his birdie putt close and tapped in to seal his triumph.

McIlroy's win meant he is the 39th golfer, over the entire course of the PGA Tour, to win 20 or more events. Davis Love III (21 wins) and Dustin Johnson (24) are now in his sights. He still has a ways to go, though, to catch Phil Mickelson (45) and Tiger Woods (82).

Rory McIlroy also picks up a winners' cheque of $1.7m and a chunk of FedEx Cup points, but the morale boost of the victory over a star-studded field will probably mean a lot more.


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