Rory McIlroy Backs Up Words to Win CJ Cup
DAYS after saying that he still believed he is the best golfer on the planet, Rory McIlroy went some way towards proving the point by winning the CJ Cup in Las Vegas with a final round of 66 to complete an astonishing weekend for European golf as Matt Fitzpatrick landed the Andalucia Masters and Charley Hull secured the individual title at the Aramco Team Series in New York - the first Ladies European Tour event to take place in the United States.
McIlroy had trailed by nine shots after 36 holes but recorded a superb 62 on Saturday to storm into contention.
The Northern Irishman began the final round two behind leader Rickie Fowler, but made five birdies and an eagle to claim his second win of 2021. Open champion Collin Morikawa shot a bogey-free 62 to finish second.
Despite winning the Wells Fargo Championship in May, McIlroy has struggled for most of 2021, which included losing his opening three matches at the Ryder Cup as Europe went down to a record 19-9 defeat.
But playing for the first time since Europe's crushing defeat by the United States in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, McIlroy issued a thrilling reminder of the immense talent that has helped lift him to four major titles.
"It was huge, it really was," McIlroy said when asked if his poor Ryder Cup performance fuelled his motivation to win again. There was a lot of reflection [in] the couple of weeks [since then]. This is what I need to do. I need to play golf, simplify it and just be me.
"I think for the last few months I was trying to be someone else to try to get better but realised that being me is enough and being me, I can do things like this."
The former world number one shot a three-under 33 on his front nine to stay in the hunt, but after a birdie at the par-four 12th, he sunk a 34-foot putt from off the front of the green to eagle the par-five 14th and move three clear.
And with Fowler struggling to replicate his 63 on Saturday during his 71, Morikawa emerged as McIlroy's closest challenger.
The two-time major winner picked up birdies on eight of his first 11 holes and closed with an eagle to move to within one after his lowest-ever PGA Tour round.
However, McIlroy parred his last four holes to secure a one-shot win at the Summit Club in Las Vegas.
MATT FITZPATRICK also put a miserable Ryder Cup behind him by coming from three shots back to win the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama thanks to a flawless final round of 68. It was his seventh European Tour success.
The Englishman began the day three behind Laurie Canter but as the challenge provided by one of the sternest tests on the European Tour proved too much for many, Fitzpatrick made 15 straight pars to keep himself right in contention.
Birdies on the 16th and 17th then put him in total control and he finished at six under, three clear of Australian Min Woo Lee and Swede Sebastian Soderberg.
English trio Canter, James Morrison and Robert Rock, Swede Alexander Björk, Kiwi Ryan Fox, American David Lipsky and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti finished at two under, with just 14 players under par.
Canter led by three at the start of the day and was eight under after five holes but signed for a 76, while Soderberg led by two at six under when stood on the 17th tee but dropped three shots in the final two holes in a 70, a score matched by Lee.
Fitzpatrick claimed his first European Tour victory in his rookie season in 2015 and has only ever gone winless once in 2019, finishing in the top 25 on the Race to Dubai in each of his seven seasons, including a second place finish in 2020.
He won his first Rolex Series title at the 2020 DP World Tour Championship, and almost took a second earlier this season as he lost out in a play-off to Lee at the abrdn Scottish Open.
A two time Ryder Cup star, the 27-year-old was playing his first event since the defeat at Whistling Straits and bounced back to become the first English winner of this event and move up to fifth on the Race to Dubai Rankings.
"It's on the bucket list to win round Valderrama with the history that it has," he said. "To do it bogey free on Sunday as well is extra special. I'm delighted.
"It's amazing, particularly the way I did It - very patient all day, didn't try to press anything, stuck to our targets and managed to hole the putts at the end. I'm delighted with the win.
"You can hit half decent shots and be behind a tree and you're chipping out or you've got to manoeuvre something, it's a true test and to be patient the whole 72 holes, I'm really pleased with the way my attitude was all week."
ENGLAND’S CHARLEY HULL landed her third LET title and her first since 2019 when she won the individual title at the Aramco Team Series in New York.
Hull shot a third-round 65 - the joint lowest of the tournament - to finish on 12 under, one stroke ahead of American world number one Nelly Korda.
"I was playing well the first couple of days, but today I really got it going," said Hull. "It was tricky conditions out there, so that is probably one of the best rounds I have played ever. I was very proud of myself and to finish with a birdie, I'm very happy.
"My last win was back in 2019, so it's good to get a win and coming towards the end of the season I hope to finish on a high."
In the team event, Jessica Korda led her team - LET players Karolin Lampert and Lina Boqvist, as well as Golf Channel journalist Alexandra O'Laughlin - to victory.
They finished with a total of 41 under par before Korda defeated Sophia Popov on the second play-off hole to clinch the win.
The Aramco Team Series - new for 2021 - is the first team event series of its kind on any professional golf tour, and sees three professionals team up with an amateur.
It is taking place across three continents, with previous tournaments in London and Sotogrande, Spain, and one to come in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in November.
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