'This week was a great reminder that you don't need to be perfect to be a great golfer'
Rory McIlroy admitted the Ryder Cup reminded him he already has what it takes to get back to being the best player in the world and he went on to prove it by claimed his 20th PGA Tour win in the CJ Cup in Las Vegas.
The Holywood star endured a frustrating five months following his win at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in May and while he tried to get better and failed to get concrete results, it was his Ryder Cup singles win over Xander Schauffele that helped him realise he was good enough all along.
"I know that when I do the things that I do well, this is what I'm capable of," McIlroy said after following Saturday’s 10-under 62 with a closing 66 to win by one shot from Collin Morikawa, who set the target with a 62, on 25-under par.
"It's just a matter of me getting back to playing golf and playing golf my way. That starts with being creative and being visual and maybe sort of sifting through the technical thoughts."
McIlroy (32) was nine shots behind Keith Mitchell at halfway but after his 10-under third round helped him close to within three shots of pal Rickie Fowler going into Sunday, he emerged from a five-way tie for the lead on the front nine to claim a 20th PGA Tour win that guarantees him Lifetime Membership following the 2022-23 season.
The Holywood star, who leaps from 14th to eighth in the world, made four birdies and a bogey on the front nine to be tied for the lead, but while he made a 35 foot putt from short of the green for eagle at the 14th to move two clear, it was a fortunate par save at the 10th that turned the event his way.
"I sort of had this bad habit recently of when I've short-sided myself and have to come over a bunker, I've predominantly left them short," McIlroy said of a 48 yard pitch he thought he'd left short but was relieved to see finish less than a foot away.
"So I've tried to pick a more aggressive landing spot. So even just saying to yourself, just land it by the pin and if it rolls out 20 feet, at least give yourself a putt.
"That was what I tried to do there, but it just, it came off a little high and not as much forward as I thought. I honestly thought I plugged it in the face of the bunker and it carried the bunker by two yards and got a nice little shoot forward off the fringe and it was a tap-in par.
"It goes back to what I said on Wednesday, to win golf tournaments you need a little bit of luck here and there and today on 10, that was my little bit of luck."
With Morikawa closing with an eagle for a 62 to set the target at 24-under, but after making birdie at the 12th to extend his lead, McIlroy had to play mistake free golf for the last four holes and did just that to win multiple wins in a calendar year for the seventh time in his career.
He admitted that it his Ryder Cup singles win was the lightbulb moment for him, having wished on Saturday night to bring his season to an end.
"I wasn't trying to be perfect, I wasn't trying to hit shots that I wasn't comfortable hitting, I just went out there to try to win my match and I did," McIlroy said of that singles win and the tears that followed it.
"I think part of the emotion at the end of it was to do with that week, but it was also probably to do with the last few months in terms of searching to try to get better and the realisation that I don't need to search for anything, it's all right here."
He added: "It's a great way to start the season. I've got nothing coming up for the next four weeks. I've got four weeks at home before I go to Dubai, but it's four weeks to build on what's just happened here.
"I think that's the thing as well, the last few months I feel like I have never worked as hard and haven't — not got so little out of it, but I didn't get what I wanted to get out of it where I just need to be a little better with what I practice and when I practice.
"As I said, like the whole week leading up to this, all I did on the range was try to visualise every shot that I hit, try to see draws, see fades, see high, see low and really just play around with it.
"The more and more I did that and the more it feels comfortable on the course doing that, and that's playing golf.
"That's getting back to hitting shots and when it boils down to it, that's all you need to do out there are hit the shots.
"Sometimes I forgot that in a quest to try to be too perfect probably, but this week was a great reminder that you don't need to be perfect to be a great golfer."
Shane Lowry tied for 54th on 12-under after a bogey-free, eight-under 64.
Meanwhile, Pádraig Harrington had to settle for a tie for 18th and $30,450 in his second appearance on the PGA Tour Champions in North Carolina.
The Dubliner went into the final round of the SAS Championship three shots behind Miguel Angel Jimenez and Alex Cejka but he never got going and shot a level par 72 that left him six shots outside a play-off.
Two-time US Open champion Lee Janzen made a 20 foot birdie putt on the first tie hole to beat Jimenez after he’d closed with a 67 to the Spaniard’s 69 to leave them tied on 12-under at Prestonwood Country Club in North Carolina.
The top 72 players in the Charles Schwab Cup standings list advanced to the playoffs, including ninth-ranked Darren Clarke, who finished tied 20th on five-under after a 69.