2022 CJ Cup leaderboard, grades: Rory McIlroy ascends to No. 1 while grabbing 23rd PGA Tour win – CBS Sports

  • October 24, 2022

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The man who began the week atop the betting board will end the weekend not only atop the leaderboard, but atop the world of golf as Rory McIlroy has ascended to world No. 1 once again with his victory at the 2022 CJ Cup. Turning in a four-round total of 17-under 267, McIlroy signed for rounds of 66-67-67-67 at Congaree Golf Club and successfully defended his CJ Cup title from a year ago in Las Vegas.
Starting the final round with a one-stroke lead, the Northern Irishman was brilliant from the word “go.” Tacking on three birdies in his opening six holes, McIlroy momentarily extended his overnight lead before a bogey on the par-4 eighth and a short miss on the ninth saw the chasing pack make up ground.
With Jon Rahm, K.H. Lee and Kurt Kitayama all catching him, McIlroy was in a tough spot on the par-5 12th when his second consecutive tee shot found the trees. Able to recover for birdie, the 33-year-old was off and running as he converted crucial birdie opportunities on the difficult par-3 14th, drivable par-4 15th and short par-4 16th to transform a share of the lead into a three-stroke edge and slam the door shut.
A bogey-bogey finish over the final two holes was all McIlroy needed to secure his 23rd victory on the PGA Tour (his fourth in the last year) and complete his summit to the peak of men’s golf. Dropping to 14th in the world this time last season, the CJ Cup represented the tournament in which McIlroy’s ascent to the top of the golfing world began. Now world No. 1 for the ninth time in his career, the quest is now to remain there. 
Discussing at length this week what it would mean to reach world No. 1 the first time in 2012, McIlroy was adamant the journey – and not the destination – is where he finds enjoyment.
“I think if I get back to No. 1 this week, it’s like my ninth time getting back. It sort of illustrates you can have your runs and you can stay there, but I think the cool part is the journey and the journey getting back there,” said McIlroy. “It’s sort of like a heavyweight boxer losing a world title and it’s a journey to get that title back. I feel like that’s the cool part of it, and that’s the journey that I’ve sort of been through over the past 12 months.”
Twelve months — or even 10-plus years — McIlroy’s consistent greatness is often lost on us. With this victory, he becomes only the 28th player in the history of the PGA Tour to win at least 23 events, passing Raymond Floyd and getting within one of golfing great Gary Player in the process.
Fair or not, the climb back to world No. 1, the PGA Tour accolades and the well-thought-out media sessions often take a back seat to major championships (with an added emphasis on a particular one in April). For once, however, let us all take a collective breath and celebrate what McIlroy has done, is doing, and possibly will do in the not-so-distant future. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of the grades for the 2022 CJ Cup in South Carolina
2. Kurt Kitayama (-16): The two-time winner on the DP World Tour acquitted himself quite nicely alongside McIlroy in the final grouping. Matching him shot for shot for most of the day, it was the par-4 15th that was his ultimate undoing; he three-putted for par after driving the green while McIlroy got up-and-down for birdie from the greenside bunker. Still, in only his second campaign on the PGA Tour, Kitayama has shown to have the guts and gumption in the heat of battle. He stared down Jon Rahm at the Mexico Open last spring, and should he put himself in this position more often, a win should be coming sooner rather than later. Grade: A+
T4. Jon Rahm (-14): Rahm came up short in the end, but it’s the continuation of some outrageously good play from him. In his last six starts, he’s finished T5-T8-T15-T2-1-T4. This week was, statistically, a return to more of how he started 2022. Though his last few good finishes have been because of lights-out putting, this week he finished fourth off the tee and second from tee to green, which is how he operates. It was unfortunate for him that he couldn’t back up his 62 on Friday with anything special on Saturday (70) or Sunday (69), but it’s always good to have Rahm in the mix, especially when so many top players are in the field. Grade: A
T11. Jason Day (-10): Is Jason Day back? The former world No. 1 has now put together consecutive strong outings on the PGA Tour, with this T11 result on the heels of a T8 effort at the Shriners Children’s Open. He signed for four rounds in the 60s as the iron play continues to impress in what has been a very nice to start out the season. Day looks 100% healthy for the first time in a long time, and it is a great thing for the game of golf. Grade: A
T28. Collin Morikawa (-5): It was a nice bounce back for Morikawa after a bad showing (for him) at the Zozo Championship. It’s not surprising to see him out of contention when he doesn’t putt well, but it is nice to see his iron play form on point for the week. The formula for him is very simple: putt well and contend. In eight positive putting performances during the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, he finished in the top five six times. In 10 negative putting performances, he didn’t have a top-20 finish. That’s instructive — Morikawa finished 75th of 78 in putting this week — and it helps ease the frustration of bad finishes for the two-time major champion. Grade: B-
T52. Jordan Spieth (+1): On a course many expected him to play well, few played worse than the three-time major champion. The concern here is not the putter (he was below average all week and duffed a tap-in on Thursday) but rather that he nearly finished last in the field in iron play, which is his greatest strength. It’s not anything to get worked up about, but it was certainly a disappointing showing from somebody who came in off a blazing hot Presidents Cup showing. Grade: D
On top in Lowcountry 🏆 pic.twitter.com/zaN4N3FmFN
An incredibly meaningful win for @McIlroyRory ❤️pic.twitter.com/TgrUC2J1mR
“I never feel like I’ve figured this game out. I don’t think I ever will figure it out, but every day I wake up trying to get closer.”

For the love of the game ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Q3lodU6HXv
23-time PGA TOUR winner @McIlroyRory addresses the media after winning @CJCUPSC 🎤 https://t.co/nvRWUZxxlq
Another tournament for Kyler.
Another win for @McIlroyRory. https://t.co/KIYsZwMNq2 pic.twitter.com/ontOBrNGgb
A successful title defense @CJCUPSC 🏆@McIlroyRory earns his 23rd career win on TOUR. pic.twitter.com/OTsmbXMDtO
A successful title defense @CJCUPSC 🏆@McIlroyRory earns his 23rd career win on TOUR. pic.twitter.com/OTsmbXMDtO
Starting his season with a W 🏆 @McIlroyRory defends his @CJCUPSC title in his season debut. pic.twitter.com/gnn6W2qBbn
A man on a mission.

3 straight birdies for @McIlroyRory.

He leads by 3 with 2 to play @CJCUPSC. pic.twitter.com/Nr1V8oRufV
With a birdie on the par-4 15th, Rory McIlroy now leads by two strokes as he is on the green in regulation on the par-4 16th. It looked as if Kurt Kitayama would add at least a birdie as he drove the par-4 15th, but a three-putt par was his ultimate undoing and likely puts a stake in this tournament.
Career year for Steven Alker continues with his fourth title! 🏆

Birdies three of the final four holes to win @DECCGolf and increases his lead in the Schwab Cup standings with two events left. pic.twitter.com/SH9s3FYx96
Leader by 2 with 3 to play.@McIlroyRory gets up-and-down for birdie on 15. pic.twitter.com/YDq4V64QEo
The best drive of the day at No. 15 💪

Kurt Kitayama drives the 348-yard par 4. pic.twitter.com/Fky8yx0ZXz
Golf can be cruel at the worst times.

Back-to-back bad breaks for Jon Rahm. pic.twitter.com/xSX2fqT9UF
Rory makes his second birdie in three holes with a two at the 14th to get one ahead of Kitayama and three ahead of Rahm. It’s nearly a two-man race now as McIlroy and Kitayama come up on the driveable par-4 15th.
Solo leader @CJCUPSC. pic.twitter.com/rkocpiPOr0
A bad break for the Spaniard unfolded on the par-3 14th for Rahm and ultimately led to a dropped shot. With K.H. Lee stalling, Kurt Kitayama and Rory McIlroy have separated themselves a bit as both are on the dance floor on the 14th — albeit McIlroy has a realistic birdie chance from roughly 12 feet.
A fun way to end the day.

Bio Kim holes it for birdie on 18 👏 pic.twitter.com/YuukUEcxYd
Lots of support for co-leader @McIlroyRory 🗣️🗣️🗣️ pic.twitter.com/F9iQYKQBna
Taking advantage of the par-5 12th, Rory McIlroy and Kurt Kitayama have reached 16 under. Jon Rahm is one stroke back, but one hole ahead at 15 under while K.H. Lee’s wayward drive on the 12th led to a par as he remains at 14 under. 
3 players tied at the top @CJCUPSC 👀

T1. @JonRahmPGA -15
T1. @McIlroyRory -15
T1. @Kurt_Kitayama -15
4. K.H. Lee -14
T5. @TommyFleetwood1 -12
T5. @AaronWise_ -12 pic.twitter.com/U49T6SM3wN
After Round 1: +2
Currently: -12@TommyFleetwood1 has battled back into contention @CJCUPSC.

He’s 3 shots back. pic.twitter.com/8tOniAM2QI
Rory goes way left on No. 11 off the tee and drops his club. However, it looks like he’s going to get away with it as he’s on the green in two and looking at a straightforward two-putt par. Rory, by the way, has unquestionably been the most consistently good player of 2022.
Strokes gained since Jan. 1

2.7 — Rory
2.5 — Scheffler
2.2 — Rahm
2.1 — Cantlay
2.0 — X, Zalatoris, JT, Cam
1.9 — Fitzpatrick
1.8 — Lowry
1.7 — Homa, Niemann, Finau

Think about how good Homa has been in 2022. Rory has been a full stroke better for 10 months.
The two-time DP World Tour winner is holding his own in the final group alongside Rory McIlroy. A birdie on the ninth propelled him to 15 under and next to McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard. Meanwhile, K.H. Lee and Jon Rahm are one stroke worse at 14 under. This is setting up to be a fantastic finish as the final threesome plays the 11th.
Lydia Ko picked up her 18th career @LPGA win at the BMW Ladies Championship.

She’s the youngest player to reach 18 LPGA wins (age 25) since Se Ri Pak in 2002.
Rory drops a shot on the eighth hole with a three putt to go from 16 under to 15 under as Rahm and Kitayama both get back within a stroke of the leader. It’s not a horrific mistake for Rory, but it could come back to bite him this afternoon.
Perfection 👏

Brendon Todd moves to 11-under with a chip-in birdie @CJCUPSC. pic.twitter.com/tTOi5KDb2F
Now at 16 under, Rory McIlroy commands a two-stroke lead over Jon Rahm and Kurt Kitayama through seven holes. The Spaniard has struggled somewhat on the greens while Kitayama has held his own and is looking to steal this title from a pair of top-five players in the world.
A beauty from the bunker 👏@McIlroyRory leads by 2 after this birdie at No. 4. pic.twitter.com/x0y6vinXpR
A beauty from the bunker 👏@McIlroyRory is 2-up after this birdie at No. 4. pic.twitter.com/gZ0scoxalp

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