McIlroy feels like a heavyweight who wants his belt back

RIDGELAND, SC (AP) — Rory McIlroy has reached the top of the world rankings eight times, and it’s still not enough. Even if the feeling is nothing new, the reward never gets old.

McIlroy defends his title this week in the CJ Cup — which has moved from high above the Las Vegas Strip to the lowlands of South Carolina — with a mathematical chance to reach No. 1 in the world for the ninth time.

“It kind of illustrates that you can have your runs and you can stay there, but I think the cool part is the road to get back there,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “It’s like a heavyweight boxer losing his world title, and it’s a journey to get that title back.”

A year ago, McIlroy was No. 14 in the world when he ran past the field in Las Vegas to win the CJ Cup at The Summit. He is a two-time winner this year, the FedEx Cup champion and has five consecutive top 10 finishes coming into this week.

He will need help at Congaree Golf Club. According to “Nosferatu”, the Twitter feed of a world ranking guru, McIlroy can reach No. 1 by winning the CJ Cup until top-ranked Scottie Scheffler finishes in a two-way tie for second or better, or by finishing second alone provided that Scheffler finishes in the top 34.

McIlroy does not lack motivation, even at the end of a long year and with only two tournaments. There’s a chance to reach No. 1 again, and he’s leading the DP World Tour points race in Europe.

Scheffler won PGA Tour Player of the Year and was poised to win the FedEx Cup until McIlroy rallied on the final day. He had the best year in golf, even if it seems like the best thing was a long time ago.

Scheffler first reached world No. 1 by winning the Dell Match Play in Texas, his third win in five starts, and then capped his streak with a win at the Masters. The rest of the year wasn’t stupid. He lost in a playoff at the Colonial and came within one shot of a playoff at the US Open.

Scheffler needed time to relax, although his mind never wanders from golf. This was especially true this time.

“I’m very competitive and I was frustrated with how last season ended. I really want to win the FedEx Cup. So it was harder for me to check this time of year,” he said.

He has already made one big change with his bat. Scheffler said he is struggling to get his shots in order for the rest of the year. He grabbed the sledgehammer-style club he used in his younger amateur years and something clicked.

“I played around with the model, figured out what I liked and what I didn’t like and talked to the guys at Titleist and they were able to get it to me in one day from California,” he said. “I feel like I’m more consistent with it.”

The field features 15 of the top 20 players in the world, most of whom are seeing the track for the first time. Congaree also participated in the Canadian Open, canceled last year due to travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CJ Cup was still unsure how it would travel to South Korea, so in June it decided to play another year in the United States. It’s been in Las Vegas for the last two years.

Among those on the field last year was Tom Kim. Now the 20-year-old is back with the stars behind him, two PGA Tour wins in his last five starts, a spark at the Presidents Cup and a No. 15 ranking.

“The rise that Tom has been on over the last few months has been incredible,” McIlroy said.

Kim was in the press center as McIlroy spoke.

“Rory, I have a question for you,” Kim said. “What’s it like to have so much success as a young player?”

McIlroy laughed and replied, “I haven’t had as much success as you at such a young age.”

And then he shared what Kim previously missed when she reached No. 1. Staying there can be harder than getting there. Only two other players have reached No. 1 more than eight times — Tiger Woods and Greg Norman, each with 11.

“The hard work is actually staying there,” McIlroy said.

DIVOTS: Cameron Young was named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, beating Kim and Sahit Theegala with 94% of the vote. Young was runner-up five times, including at the British Open, and missed the PGA Championship playoff by one stroke. This is the second year in a row that a Wake Forest alum has won the award, following Will Zalatoris. … Rickie Fowler makes his 300th career start on the PGA Tour. For Justin Thomas, it’s number 200.


More AP Golf: and

The Latest

To Top