As the only three-time winner of the FedEx Cup and the reigning champion, Rory McIlroy is a bit of an authority on how to win the shiny sterling silver trophy and lucre that goes with it.
During his Wednesday pre-tournament press conference in Memphis ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship, McIlroy was asked whether the winning recipe is great golf or great timing.
“It’s a little bit of both,” said McIlroy, who erased a six-stroke deficit with a final-round 65 to secure the 2022 Tour Championship as he had done in 2016 and 2019. “I’ve gotten hot at the right time. It’s also course fit. East Lake (site of the Tour Championship) is a course I’ve enjoyed over the years, and it’s always nice knowing when you go back there, you’re always going to have a good shot to win.”
McIlroy noted that he treats the three-event Playoffs as if it were one big 12-round tournament.
“You’re trying to go out there and get the best out of yourself for those 12 days,” he said.
Last year, he overcame a missed cut at TPC Southwind, the host course this week in the first playoff event but still made up enough ground in Atlanta.
“If you’re up there in the standings, at least you know you’ve got a little bit of wiggle room,” he said.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler enters the week in second place in the FedEx Cup point standings behind Jon Rahm. A year ago, he was the leader heading into the final event in Atlanta but struggled on Sunday, shooting 74, and watched helplessly as McIlroy took home the hardware. Scheffler said he’s learned from the experience.
“I’m treating this year more as trying to build up for East Lake. I feel like if I go out and have a great week at East Lake with the position I’m in now in the FedExCup, I can’t fall too far away from the lead,” he said. “I am kind of trying to build my way into that tournament and make sure I’m rested just because it’s the playoffs. The fields are really good. You don’t want to be tired going into the weekend at East Lake just because those are going to be the four most important days of the playoffs.”
He added: “I could win both these tournaments and I still only have a two-shot lead at East Lake. It’s a different format, and just trying to be ready for that tournament.”
McIlroy has experienced both trying to hold the lead in the staggered-start scoring of the Tour Championship and being the chaser and observed that holding the lead is a different mindset than any other tournament.
“I think starting at 10-under par at the Tour Championship, if you are that No. 1 seed, it’s tough starting — it’s tough to get into the right mindset on Thursday morning. We all usually start level, and you’re starting with a two-shot lead,” he said.
But first up is Memphis and McIlroy and Scheffler will get to do battle in a powerhouse threesome grouping alongside Rahm. It doesn’t get much better than that.