The Northern Irishman posted a closing six under par round of 66 to reach 25 under par and secure a one-shot victory over two-time Major Champion Collin Morikawa, who had set the target with a blistering final round of 62.
The 32-year-old went into the final round two shots behind 54-hole leader Rickie Fowler but managed to overcome his playing partner, who carded a closing 71, to move straight to fourth in the FedExCup Standings after winning in his first appearance of the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season.
McIlroy’s victory comes after taking stock of where he was in his career and going back to basics, following a time when, by his own admission, he was trying to be someone he’s not.
“There was a lot of reflection the last couple weeks and this is what I need to do. I just need to play golf, I need to simplify it, I need to just be me. For the last few months I was maybe trying to be someone else to try to get better and I sort of realised that being me is enough and being me, I can do things like this,” he said.
“I know that when I do the things that I do well, this is what I'm capable of. I'm capable of winning a lot of events on the PGA TOUR and being the best player in the world.
“It's just a matter of me getting back to playing golf my way. That starts with being creative and being visual and maybe not being as technical with it. To get to 20 wins out here is a big achievement. I didn't know if it was going to be this week, but I knew if I just kept my head down and kept playing well and doing the right things, eventually I'd get there.
“I've been close to starting my season with a win before, I think I finished second or third like eight times, so to get a win, it's great. It feels really good, some validation of what I've done the last few weeks and just keep moving forward. I still want to get back to that point where I'm knocking off three, four, five wins a year.”