Rory McIlroy won his first PGA Tour title in 18 months at a tournament, the Wells Fargo Championship, who loves him and he loves.
“RORY. RORY. RORY “.
It was a sweet sound to the ears of Rory McIlroy – a large, loud and passionate gallery that chanted his name that I deeply missed for the past year. Applause was in attendance for every iron shot he hit this week, for every boom drive, and finally for the two-foot putt he made on the 18th green Sunday at Quail Hollow to win the Wells Fargo Championship.
McIlroy, arguably more than any other outstanding player on the PGA Tour, is fueled by the passion of the crowd. When golf returned last summer without the fans, his game plummeted. He entered this week at his lowest ranking in more than 11 years and without a win in 553 days, the second-longest drought of his career.
But there is something about Quail Hollow. Maybe it’s the fact that his first PGA Tour victory came here as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in 2010. Or that he set the course record in 2015 on his way to the lowest 72-hole score in the tournament. history of the tournament. Charlotte fans love McIlroy, and he returns the feeling to them.
“I’m certainly glad that the crowd is back and I’m glad I was able to get the job done in an atmosphere like that today,” he said in his post-win. Press conference. “And I’m excited to move on now that we can play in front of a crowd like that. It was an incredible experience to feel that again over the weekend. “
McIlroy’s results this week certainly didn’t point to him ending his winless drought. He missed the cut in two of his last three tournaments, including the Masters three weeks ago. In recent months, he admitted to feeling lost and unfocused on the field without the fans and that the distance chase, triggered by witnessing Bryson DeChambeau make his way to the US Open last September, affected his game.
Since the Masters, McIlroy has been hiding out at his home in Florida, working with swing instructor Pete Cowen. Even when he was No. 1 in the world last year, McIlroy felt he didn’t have a singular swing motion to call on in moments of pressure. That’s what he and Cowen have been working on, incorporating a fading with the driver into their game.
The results have been more than positive. He finished ninth on the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, despite hitting just 19 fairways all week, tied for second-fewest on the field. He was also third in putting, enjoying his best week on the greens since winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2018.
McIlroy took a two-shot lead in the back-nine on Sunday after birdies at short par four 14 and par five 15. Leading Keith Mitchell and Abraham Ancer by two shots on the final three holes, McIlroy had to use it all. what Cowen has been teaching him just for these moments.
On the 18th, still with a two-shot lead, his drive hooked to the left and settled on a thick lie just outside the creek that runs adjacent to the fairway. Instead of trying to play it from the penalty area, he dropped and took his third shot onto the green. Needing two 43-foot putts for his 19th PGA Tour title, he placed first at two feet and gave himself an easy tap-in to finish at 10 under par, one ahead of Ancer.
McIlroy’s life has changed dramatically since he last won in November 2019. He is now the father of an eight-month-old daughter, who finally got to see Dad lift a trophy for the first time. Depression exhausted him, but McIlroy knew what he had to do: get to work to fix it.
So that’s what he did, and the title brings with it a sense of satisfaction and relief. “I mean, yeah, relief that I won again, relief that I feel like my season is back on track, and more simply satisfaction with the journey I’m on and the process I’ve been going through. try to get back to this point, ”he said.
“There has been a lot of hard work. Put your head down. I haven’t really looked too much in either direction. I’ve only tried to do what I have to do. “
The next time McIlroy participates in a PGA Tour event it will be in two weeks at the PGA Championship. That big championship will take place 180 miles south of Quail Hollow, at another course, Kiawah Island, where McIlroy has fond memories. In 2012, he won by eight shots, a PGA Championship record.
Stuck in four major races for nearly seven years, the quest to further his legacy in the game is back. He can thank the Charlotte fans, who never lost faith that he would return.