McIlroy broke down in tears in a rare show of emotion after winning his singles match against Xander Schauffele in Europe’s ill-fated quest at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
And the 32-year-old admits that while nobody was more surprised at the reaction than himself, he believes it may have left him better equipped to continue his challenge to move back up the world rankings.
McIlroy said: “I don’t necessarily get emotional about golf, so I guess in that way it surprised me. But it’s a very emotionally-charged week.
“I think it was a good thing for me. I think maybe I realised a couple of things about myself that I hadn’t known, or maybe I had known but I was trying to keep down and not let them out.
“I was surprised at how emotional I got, but after a little bit of reflection over the last couple of weeks I sort of realised why I did get that way.”
Despite the absence of world number one John Rahm, eight members of the European Ryder Cup team will be playing in the event in Las Vegas, which has been moved from its usual home in South Korea for pandemic reasons.
Despite facing such a wealth of talent, McIlroy remains convinced that on his day he still has the beating of all his rivals and can swiftly head back into the world’s top 10.
“I think when I play my best, I’m the best player in the world,” added McIlroy. “I haven’t played like that for a while, but I don’t feel like I have to go that far back to whenever the pandemic hit, I was number one in the world.
“It’s not the position I want to be in, but at the same time there’s so many other guys that are trying to do the same thing as I’m doing, and the competition gets tougher each and every year.”
With Rahm opting instead to play in Valderrama, American Dustin Johnson will be the top-seeded player at the event, and he hopes his team’s success in Wisconsin will stand him in good stead.
“Obviously I had a really nice Ryder Cup, and hopefully I can just build off that a little bit,” said Johnson. “The game’s starting to turn around. Obviously I kind of took the last couple of weeks off, so I’m trying to get back into the swing of things here this week.”
Purse: €8.45 million (€1.5m to the winner)
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
The course: The Summit Club –7,431 yards, par 72 –is a Tom Fazio design that doesn’t fall into the clichéd trap of being a desert course. In fact, it is more parkland in nature – the layout nestled between the Red Rock Canyon conservation area and the famed Las Vegas strip (most notably visible to players when on the 6th tee) – with the desert landscape forming the backdrop to many holes. The course features strategic bunkering and strong green complexes.
The field: The CJ Cup features seven of the top-10 players in the world rankings Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau are the absentees – in what is a big-money, limited field (just 78 players with no cut) tournament. No fewer than 17 players from the recent Ryder Cup are also teeing up for this tournament which, for a second straight year, has a Las Vegas location (but a new course) rather than its traditional South Korean home venue.
Quote-unquote: “These guys are the best in the world and we do it every week; we show up to courses that we’ve never played and you have to figure them out Monday through Wednesday, so there’s no issues there” – Collin Morikawa ruling out any possible local knowledge advantage on sleeping in his own bed and playing on a course where he is a member and practices.
Irish in the field: Shane Lowry is grouped with Marc Leishman and Stewart Cink (4.20pm Irish time); Rory McIlroy is in a group with defending champion Jason Kokrak and Justin Thomas (5.25pm Irish time).
Betting: Dustin Johnson, fresh off a perfect 5/5 record at the Ryder Cup, is joint favourite with Justin Thomas at 10/1 . . . Morikawa looks decent value at 14/1 on a course he knows like the back of his hand and which rewards good iron play . . . recent winner Max Homa is worth an each-way look at 50/1.
On TV: Live on Sky Sports (live coverage from 10pm, featured groups from 3.15pm)