Berliner Tageblatt - Rory McIlroy regains World No. 1 ranking with CJ Cup win

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Rory McIlroy regains World No. 1 ranking with CJ Cup win
Rory McIlroy regains World No. 1 ranking with CJ Cup win / Photo: © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP

Rory McIlroy regains World No. 1 ranking with CJ Cup win

Rory McIlroy held on for a one-stroke victory in the US PGA Tour CJ Cup on Sunday to return to the top of the world rankings for the ninth time in his career.

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Three late birdies proved crucial when the Northern Ireland star bogeyed the last two holes but still edged American Kurt Kitayama.

The four-time major winner is back atop the rankings for the first time since July 2020 -- when he was supplanted by Spain's Jon Rahm.

He ousted American Scottie Scheffler, who finished tied for 45th on Sunday to see his 30-week stint at the summit end.

"It means a lot," McIlroy said. "I've worked so hard over the last 12 months to get myself back to this place. It feels awesome.

"It's a big achievement."

McIlroy defended the CJ Cup title he claimed last year in Las Vegas. The tournament has been moved from South Korea for three straight years because of travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

He notched a 23rd career PGA Tour title, and continued to show the strong form of his 2021-22 campaign, in which he won a record third FedEx Cup playoff crown and finished in the top eight at all four majors.

McIlroy has also emerged in recent months as a strong voice supporting the US PGA Tour amid the emergence of the rival LIV Golf Series.

"I think it has a continuation of how I've been playing over the last few months and hopefully I can continue into Dubai in a few weeks' time and into 2023," he said.

McIlroy started the day at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina, with a one-shot lead over Spain's Rahm, Kitayama and South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon.

It was a tight race for most of the day as all found birdies in the early going, McIlroy picking up strokes at the par-five second, the fourth and the sixth before a three-putt bogey at the eighth.

He and Kitayama, seeking a first US PGA Tour title, were tied at 16-under after birdies at the par-five 12th.

The tied turned, however, when McIlroy rolled in a 13-foot birdie putt at the par-three 14th to ignite a run of three straight birdies.

At 15, he landed his shot from the sandy waste area five feet from the pin and made that for birdie. At 16, he rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt to stretch his lead to three strokes.

- 'It feels great' -

As it turned out, he'd need all of that cushion as he finished with back-to-back bogeys.

At 18, he was in the fairway, but his second shot finished 41 feet from the pin and his putt raced seven feet past the hole.

He needed two putts from there, but Kitayama couldn't get his birdie putt to drop and so a bogey was enough to seal McIlroy's win.

"It feels great," McIlroy said. "It feels great to go out there with the lead, shoot a good score, play really well and get the win.

"I'm proud of how I handled everything this week."

Kitayama played withough a bogey, posting four birdies in his four-under 67 for 268.

Lee had three birdies in his three-under 68 and was alone in third on 269.

Rahm, who had a share of the lead at 15-under on the back nine, couldn't recover from a bogey at 14 and finished tied for fourth on 270 with England's Tommy Fleetwood, who carded an impressive 65.