Rory McIlroy put his Ryder Cup pain behind him to join a select band of players with 20 PGA victories with a one-stroke win in the CJ Cup in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Starting the day two shots behind leader Rickie Fowler, the former world number one – whose ranking has slipped to 14th during a troubled 2021 – carded a superb six-under 66 to end on 25-under par for his second victory of 2021.
McIlroy mixed four birdies around his first bogey since Thursday on the front nine, gained another stroke on the 12th before setting up the win by sinking a monster 34-foot putt from off the green for an eagle three on the 14th.
A composed approach shot on the last meant he could two-putt from 13 feet for a closing par to secure victory ahead of American Collin Morikawa, who scorched up the leaderboard to put pressure on the Holywood star with a career-best 10-under 62.
Fowler (71) and fellow American Keith Mitchell (67) were two further shots back in third.
Shane Lowry sizzled to a round of 64 in Nevada, but was never in contention after opening the tournament with rounds of 73 and 70.
The Offaly man finished on 12 under in a three-way tie for 54th place, alongside Jason Kokrak and Kevin Kisner.
"Being me is enough and being me I can do things like this."— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 18, 2021
You do you, @McIlroyRory. pic.twitter.com/PGax1HiXm3
"To get to 20 wins here is a big achievement," said McIlroy, the 39th player to achieve the feat.
"I didn't know if it was going to be this week, but I knew if I just kept my head down and kept playing well and kept doing the right things that eventually I'd get there.
"To get a win, it’s great, it feels really good."
McIlroy was playing for the first time since his moderate performance in Europe’s recent Ryder Cup defeat in Wisconsin last month – an arduous week which famously left the 32-year-old in tears in his closing interview – and said the experience had helped turn him around.
"It was huge. It really was. I was really disappointed with how I played," he said in a greenside interview with PGA Tour.
"There was a lot of reflection in the last couple of weeks. This is what I need to do. I need to play golf, I need to simplify it. I need to just be me. I think for the last few months I was maybe trying to be someone else to try and get better.
"I realised that being me is enough, and being me I can do things like this."
A winner in Las Vegas. 🏆@McIlroyRory captures win No. 20 at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT. pic.twitter.com/ULt8t2H686— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 18, 2021
The victory also leaves McIlroy on the brink of lifetime exemption on the PGA Tour thanks to that 20th victory.
The other condition needed is to play 15 years on tour, and with the player currently in season 13 that automatic invite to any PGA Tour event, excluding invitationals, is close at hand.
"It's pretty significant. I think when you can do something to achieve lifetime membership on tour, I think I still need to play another couple of years after this one to actually get it, but that's great.
"By the time I’m 34, 35, not having to worry about minimums on tour and being able to really set a schedule, especially at that point when kids will be getting into school age and wanting to spend a little bit more time at home. That’s important when you look to the bigger things in life.
"Getting to that level, I can pick and choose where I play nowadays anyway, but that makes it even better and less of a burden."