Rory McIlroy ended losing run stretching back to November 2019 with a one-shot victory at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.
There was scare for the Northern Irishman at the final hole when he took a one-shot penalty, but a bogey for a closing 68 for 10-under par was enough to seal a narrow win over Abraham Ancer, with Victor Hovland and overnight leader Keith Mitchell in a tie for third on eight under.
McIlroy started the final day two shots behind Mitchell, but moved to the 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.
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 – 15 – since 2009 and started the tournament 51st in the FedEx Cup standings.
After winning his third Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy said: “Quail Hollow is one of my favourite places in the world, so to break the drought by winning here again is awesome.
McIlroy believes the return of spectators after the Covid-19 ban helped to drive him to victory in North Carolina. “It’s awesome to play in front of galleries again,” he said. “When we came back from the pandemic I thought I would enjoy the peace and quiet a little bit. I soon realised that to bring the best out of myself I need this and I feel all the energy so much. Maybe here more than anywhere else because it’s the first place I’ve won three times. The crowd really carried me through today.”
McIlroy’s winning gear
Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 9°
Fairway Woods: TaylorMade SIM (3, 5)
Irons: TaylorMade P730 (3-9)
Wedges: TaylorMade MG (48°) MG2 TW (56°, 60°)
Putter: TaylorMadeSpider X Hydro Blast
Ball: TaylorMade TP5X