McIlroy closed with a 3-under 68 and made it tough on himself at the end Sunday, driving into the hazard left of the 18th fairway and needing two putts from 45 feet for a one-shot victory in the Wells Fargo Championship.
“It’s tough to get over the line, especially if you haven’t done it in a while,” McIlroy said. “It’s such a funny week, knowing my game was pretty good and then having my neck lock up on the range and sitting here Sunday night with the trophy.
“Just glad I got through it.”
What mattered was ending 18 months since his last victory in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, along with finding a strong semblance of his game as he prepares to return to Kiawah Island for the PGA Championship.
McIlroy seemed to be on the verge of choking up at winning on Mother’s Day, thinking of his mother, Rosie, and wife Erica. She was at Quail Hollow with their daughter, Poppy, and McIlroy doted on them before signing his card.
McIlroy seized control with two splendid bunker shots, getting up-and-down for birdie on the reachable par-4 14th and the par-5 15th, and then holding on at the end.
“This is one of my favorite places in the world,” said McIlroy, of the place where he collected his first PGA TOUR victory in 2010. “To break the drought and win here, it’s awesome.”
Abraham Ancer ran off three straight birdies and nearly closed with a fourth one, posting a 66 for a runner-up finish, the fourth of his career as the Mexican seeks his first PGA Tour title.
McIlroy finished at 10-under 274 for his 19th career victory, and his third at Quail Hollow. The relieved Northern Irishman was full of praise for his team. McIlroy has been working with long time advisor Michael Bannon with Harry Diamond on his bag. He recently started working with Pete Cowen too.
“There’s relief that I’ve won again, relief that my season is sort of back on track, and more just satisfaction at the journey that I’m on and the process that I’ve been going through to try to get back to this point,” McIlroy told Sky Sports.
“There’s been a lot of hard work, but I’ve put my head down and I haven’t really looked too much in either direction, I’ve just tried to do what I need to do. For a couple of months there, all that hard work seemed like it was not really getting anywhere, wasn’t providing me with much.
“But then, knowing that my game was pretty good coming in here and then have my neck completely lock up on me on the range on Wednesday afternoon, not even thinking I was going to play on Thursday, and then I’m sitting here on Sunday night with a trophy.
“It’s been a bit of a funny week in a way. Just glad that I got through it and played some really good golf over the weekend.
“Pete deserves a good bit of credit for it, for sure. Obviously, Michael Bannon is the one that’s got me all the way to this point, so I’m never going to mention Pete without Michael because Michael deserves a lot of credit, too.
The Associate Press, May 10, 2021