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Wells Fargo Championship: Rory McIlroy wins for first time since 2019

-10 R McIlroy (NI), -9 A Ancer (Mex); -8 V Hovland (Nor), K Mitchell (US); -7 G Woodland (US); -5 L List (US), P Reed (US), M Wallace (Eng); -4 B DeChambeau (US), A Wise (US)
Selected others: -3 B Watson (US); -2 T Fleetwood (Eng), X Schauffele (US); -1 R Knox (Sco); Level J Thomas (US); +4 S Power (Ire); +6 S Lowry (Ire); +7 P Mickelson (US) Full leaderboard

Rory McIlroy says relief and satisfaction were the overriding emotions as he ended his winless run by clinching the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow for a third time – just six weeks after starting work with coach Pete Cowen.

The world number 15, whose last success came in November 2019, shot a closing three-under 68 to win by one shot.

“Relief that I’ve won again… and more satisfaction at the journey I’m on and the process I’ve been through to try to get back to this point,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of hard work. I’ve put my head down, I haven’t really looked too much in either direction, I’ve just tried to do what I need to do.

“This is obviously a huge confidence boost going in there knowing that my game is closer than it has been. I’ll be able to poke holes in everything that I did today, it’s certainly far from perfect, but this one is validation that I’m on the right track.”

There was a scare for McIlroy, 32, at the final hole when he took a one-shot penalty but made a decisive bogey.

Abraham Ancer finished second with Viktor Hovland and overnight leader Keith Mitchell in a tie for third on eight under.

The victory is perfect preparation for McIlroy’s bid to win a third USPGA Championship later this month, with the Ryder Cup player aiming to secure a second success at Kiawah Island.

Good start in Charlotte

He started the day two shots behind Mitchell but moved top with a birdie, his second of the round, at the seventh and then shared the lead – first with Gary Woodland then Mitchell and Ancer.

Birdies at 14 and 15 saw the four-time major winner go two clear but he pulled his final drive and was fortunate that the ball settled in a hazard two feet from a stream.

McIlroy’s caddie Harry Diamond encouraged him to take a penalty drop nonetheless and it proved a wise decision as he then hit his eight-iron onto the green and two-putted for victory.

“I was ready to get in there and try to play that with a lob wedge and he was sort of like, ‘Let’s take a step back, let’s think about this, where’s the best place you’re hitting your third from’,” said McIlroy.

“So he sort of calmed me down and slowed me down a little bit and said ‘Pal, let’s just think about this a little bit’,”.

Rory McIlroy plays into the green at the seventh hole in the final round

An improved putting performance was key to earning a 19th PGA Tour win, with McIlroy not missing from six feet in all four rounds.

It is a timely boost for McIlroy, who has slipped to his lowest world ranking since 2009 and started the tournament 51st in the FedEx Cup standings.

McIlroy believes the return of spectators after the Covid-19 ban helped to drive him to victory in North Carolina.

“The world is a completely different place from what it used to be with everyone going through the pandemic,” he told CBS television.

“Life has changed a lot for me now, being a dad and winning on Mother’s Day, thinking of Erica and my mum back home.

Rory McIlroy's wife Erica and their daughter Poppy join in the celebrations
Rory McIlroy’s wife Erica and their daughter Poppy join in the celebrations

“I’m certainly glad that the crowds were back and I’m glad that I was able to get the job done in an atmosphere like that today.

“And I’m excited going forward now that we get to play in front of crowds like that.

“It was just an awesome experience to feel that again over the weekend.”

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