Rory McIlroy believes reaching world number one in the Official World Golf Rankings at the CJ Cup would cap off the journey he has been on to get back to the top of the sport after a tough twelve months.
McIlroy can return to the summit of the world rankings for the first time in two years and three months with a win or solo second if Scottie Scheffler doesn’t finish better than 34th this week.
The Holywood native is also the defending champion this week and the CJ Cup represented the start of his revival 12 months ago as he held off Collin Morikawa to win in his first outing since his emotional interview at the Ryder Cup.
McIlroy has described that week in Wisconsin as the low point of 2021 in a year where he dropped as far as 16th in the world.
“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,” explained McIlroy who was 13th in the world before this event last year.
“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.
“I think the real low point for me last year was the Ryder Cup, I had a terrible Ryder Cup individually, played poorly, didn’t really help my team that much at all. I think that was like the reset button for me to sort of think about things. And you think about the golf that I’ve played post Ryder Cup last year with the win here, I played well sort of into the end of the season over on the European Tour and then I’ve been very consistent this year.
“Yeah, it’s never fun to feel like you’re not getting the best out of yourself. As I said, Ryder Cup was like a hard reset for me and I sort of had to think about things and ask myself some tough questions, and thankfully I’ve come out the other side of it and I’m better for that experience.”
Should things go the 33-year-old’s way he will return to the top of the world of golf for the ninth time in ten years and become the 35th golfer to look down on the rest since Tiger Woods last reigned in March 2013 showing just how hard it is to stay at the top.
“I think it’s sort of the same feeling. So I got to No. 1 in the world after I won the Honda Classic in 2012. It had been a goal of mine for maybe six months up until that point. I won the U.S. Open the previous year, I think I got up to like it might have been my first time cracking the top-5, so then it became a goal of mine. Went on a good run, ended up getting there after the Honda.
“But I remember waking up the next morning and being like, is this it? You know, you sort of, you work towards a goal for so long and then you wake up the next day and you don’t feel any different after having achieved it.
“So I think then it’s a matter of having to reframe your goals and reframe what success looks like. I think that’s one of the great things about this game, no matter how much you’ve achieved or how much success you’ve had, you always want to do something else, there’s always something else to do.
“I guess that’s where I say like the cool thing about it is you get to No. 1 and it feels great in the moment, and the bad thing is you almost got to work just — well, not work just as hard, maybe work harder to stay there. I think it’s — it’s not — I think when you’re striving towards something, not that it’s easier to get there, but like once you get there, it’s great. But I think the hard work is actually staying there.”