McIlroy overcomes injury for third Wells Fargo title

Rory McIlroy revealed a neck injury almost forced him out of the Wells Fargo Championship earlier last week before finally ending an 18-month winless drought following a near disaster on the final hole of the North Carolina-based tournament.

Despite an errant driver that included landing within a lateral water hazard off the tee on 18 and a subsequent penalty drop, the recently-turned 32-year-old closed with a final round 68 to win by a shot on 10-under par at Quail Hollow.

Texas-based Mexican Abraham Ancer (66), who endured an hour-long wait in the clubhouse, finished in second place at nine-under par.

McIlroy’s last taste of success had been at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions 553-days ago on 3rd November, 2019 in suburban Shanghai. His Wells Fargo win puts to an end the second-longest winless run in his 13-year pro career.

His Quail Hollow trophy also becomes the first time McIlroy has won a single event on three occasions (2010, 2015 and 2021), breaking a run of two wins apiece in eight different events on the same eight courses. The 2010 Quail Hollow Championship, as it was known then, was McIlroy’s first PGA Tour win.

Rory McIlroy Rory McIlroy with his wife, Erica and daughter, Poppy (Credit: PGA Tour)

In ten starts at the Wells Fargo, McIlroy has eight top-10 finishes.

Waiting for McIlroy at the back of the 18th was his wife, Erica and daughter, Poppy. His victory this morning was the first since his daughter was born late last August.

The timing couldn’t have been much better for McIlroy with the next event on his schedule coming at the PGA Championship on May 20th at Kiawah Island. It was at that very course 11-years ago where he claimed an emphatic eight-shot success in capturing the first of two Rodman Wanamaker trophies.

“It felt like a long time since I had that victory in China back in 2019 and the world now is a completely different place than it used to be with everyone trying to get through a pandemic,” he said.

“Life has also changed for me being a dad. Winning also on Mother’s Day, so I am thinking of my mum back home.”

“It just feels awesome and this is one of my favourite places in the world and to break the drought by winning here again is incredible”.

In a surprise for everyone, McIlroy disclosed in his post-match press conference, that his neck had locked-up on Wednesday while on the practice range. Thankfully an intense round of treatment enabled him to take his place in the event.

“I don’t know what caused the complete left side of my neck to lock up but then it’s no coincidence I turned 32 the day before,” he said smiling.

“I then underwent a lot of treatment on my neck and I was fortunate to have an afternoon tee time on Thursday as that helped.”

McIlroy headed into the last day trailing two shots behind Keith Mitchell who led the field on nine-under par.

The pair were in the final group with Mitchell, the shock winner of the 2019 Honda Classic, seizing the initiative to go three shots clear when he birdied the first.

McIlroy struck back in holing a six-footer for birdie at the third and then when Mitchell bogeyed both five and six, and McIlroy birdied the par-5 seventh from 23-feet, the Northern Irishman was in front on nine-under.

He then parred the next four holes before being the first to get to double figures and into the lead at 10-under in finding a greenside bunker at the par-4 13th with his drive and then getting up-and-down for a birdie ’3′.

An enthusiastic but COVID-19 reduced crowd made the most noise all week when McIlroy made back-to-back birdies at 14 after also finding a greenside bunker but walking off with a birdie ’4′.

He then parred 16 and 17 before his only bogey on 18.

McIlroy now has a week off before the year’s second major at Kiawah Island but clearly has much work under the eye of coach Pete Cowen having hit just four of 14 fairways and a respectable 28 putts.

Viktor Hovland continued his superb form this season with a second third place in two weeks. The Norwegian now has a win, two second places, two thirds and a 5th place in just his second full season on the PGA Tour after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019.

Phil Mickelson, who lead the field by two shots after an opening round of 7-under 64, faded away across the next three days with 75, 76 and 76 to finish in outright 69th.

Cameron Davis lead the way for the Australians slumping to equal 26th following a final round 74 and one shot ahead of Matt Jones (T37).

Jason Day, Cameron Percy and Monday qualifier Lucas Herbert missed the weekend cut.