Rickie Fowler entered the final round of the CJ Cup with a two-shot lead and was 18 holes from ending a horrific two-year slump during which he missed the 2021 FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time in his career.
However, his closing one under par round of 71 was no match for the six under par 66 posted by Rory McIlroy, who picked up his 20th PGA Tour victory with a 25 under total of 263, despite a strong challenge from Collin Morikawa, who fired a ten under par 62 on Sunday to come up a stroke short of forcing a playoff.
The limited-field event with 78 players and no cut, which was held in Las Vegas for the second year in a row after being relocated from Asia due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is expected to return to South Korea in 2022. It was also part of back-to-back PGA Tour events held in Sin City, joining last week’s Shriners Children’s Open to bring golf to the desert in consecutive weeks.
McIlroy was one of the betting favorites prior to the start of the tournament with odds of +1600, behind Dustin Johnson, Xander Schaufelle, and Justin Thomas, and the Irishman won $1.755 million from the total purse of $9.75 million.
He also picked up 500 FedEx Cup points as he added his second Tour win in six months after he ended an 18-month drought at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.
Scores were very low relative to par at the CJ Cup, a common occurrence anytime Tour professionals tee it up on a par 72 layout. McIlroy was four-under-par on the par-five holes in his closing round, including an eagle on the 14th hole that vaulted the 32-year-old four-time major champion into the lead, and he held on with four pars down the stretch.
Betting Favorites Performances
With the exception of Morikawa, it was a disappointing weekend for most of the wagering favorites, with Schauffele (+1200), Justin Thomas (+1200), and Viktor Hovland (+2800) finishing tied for 18th place at 18 under par 270 with Dustin Johnson struggling to a tie for 45th after shooting a 14 under par 274 for the four rounds.
Louis Oosthuizen (+2200) and Brooks Koepka (+2800) finished in 38th place, and Tony Finau (+2500) could manage no better than a tie for 45th along with Johnson.
Fowler seemed poised to break out of his disappointing two-year stretch after birdies on two of his first four holes enabled him to maintain his two-shot margin, but a double-bogey seven from the middle of the fairway on the par-five sixth hole dropped into a tie with multiple players, including McIlroy who birdied the hole to erase a three-shot deficit.
While McIlroy went four under par the rest of the way and Morikawa was making a charge with a front nine seven-under-par 29, Fowler was stuck in neutral, managing just a pair of birdies and a bogey in his final ten holes to lose ground to the rest of the challengers.