McIlroy, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Friday, regained the summit a week after he was supplanted by England’s Luke Donald.
The two have exchanged the top spot for the past two months and McIlroy needed only a top-seven finish at Quail Hollow to return to number one.
“It’s a little consolation,” McIlroy said. “I would rather win the tournament but it’s good.
“You know, I want to try and play well for the next few weeks and try and solidify my spot there at number one and hopefully start by doing that next week and giving myself another chance to win.”
McIlroy, who will defend his US Open title in June, will tee it up in the US tour’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday after skipping the event last year.
McIlroy, who won his first US title on the same Quail Hollow course in 2010, finished tied for second on Sunday with DA Points, both paring the first play-off hole as Fowler birdied for the victory.
“Overall it’s been a decent week,” McIlroy said. “To come back after three weeks off and get myself in the mix — I gave myself a chance to win — was nice.”
McIlroy said he was delighted for Fowler, another 23-year-old who has been touted as a rising star but who had been unable to land that first US Tour win until Sunday.
“It’s great to see,” McIlroy said. “He probably has gone through a lot of scrutiny and a lot of pressure trying to get that first win out of the way.
“Hopefully that’ll ease the pressure a little bit.” — Sapa-AFP