Rory McIlroy is 'proud' of his 'wild' return to world No. 1 after successfully defending his CJ Cup title.

Rory McIlroy admitted that his return to the top of the world rankings came faster than expected after successfully defending his CJ Cup title.

McIlroy won his 23rd PGA Tour title and third of the season with a one-shot victory over Kurt Kitayama at Congaree Golf Club, shooting a four-under 67 despite finishing with back-to-back bogeys.

"If you had told me on the Friday night of the Valero Texas Open [in April], when I missed the cut, that I would be world No. 1 by October, I would have asked what they were smoking," McIlroy admitted after his victory.

"Yeah, it's been a crazy six months. I figured out a few things about my game and have been on a really good run.

"Everything seems to have come together for me, and today felt like a continuation of how I've been playing over the last few months. Now it's just a matter of moving forward and trying to keep this going.

"It's incredible. It's a lot to process right now with everything, but I'm really proud of how I handled this week knowing what was at stake and just how I've played over the last few months."

McIlroy's return to world No. 1 for the first time since 2020 caps a stellar year in which he finished in the top eight in all four majors, with the 33-year-old pleased with his progress over the past year.

"This tournament last year was the beginning of me trying to build myself back up to this point," McIlroy, who was world No 14 when he won the CJ Cup in 2021, explained. "I had a really bad Ryder Cup, as I've already mentioned. I believe I was outside the top ten in the world, which is not a position I am accustomed to.

"I think it's just the steady climb back up to the top of world golf and what it takes, and it's not just me, it's everyone on my team. It's not a one-man show.

"Just thinking back over the last year, there are a lot of people who deserve a lot of the accolades, and I'm the one who sits up here and accepts them, but there's a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that people aren't aware of."

"All of that is just as important as what I do out there trying to win these games." It's a team effort, and I think that's what gets me a little choked up and emotional whenever I think about it, because it's really cool to be on this journey with other people who you want to be on the journey with."

Victory also makes him the first reigning FedExCup champion since Tiger Woods in 2008 to start his PGA Tour season with a win, giving McIlroy plenty of confidence for the rest of the year.

"I've had to go out there and win all three wins, right?" McIlroy elaborated. "I shot 62 in Canada, 66 at the Tour Championship, and then went out today with a lead and shot four under to win."

"That has to be the most satisfying thing. I put myself in that position all three times and went out there and did what I needed to do. They are significant strides and steps in the right direction."