Rory McIlroy Ends Winless Run at Wells Fargo Championship
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy ended his winless run by clinching the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow for a third time - just six weeks after starting to work with swing coach Pete Cowen. McIlroy adores this venue - it was where he won his first PGA Tour event.
He had tumbled all the way down to 15th in the world rankings after a miserable run since lockdown ended. He began the final round two shots behind Keith Mitchell but shot a final round of 68 to win by one shot.
There was a scare for McIlroy, 32, at the final hole when he took a one-shot penalty but made a decisive bogey on a hole that is the toughest on the PGA Tour.
"It's just awesome - it feels like a long time since the last win," he said.
Abraham Ancer finished second with Viktor Hovland and overnight leader Mitchell in a tie for third on eight under.
McIlroy’s return to form could not have come at a better time, with the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island just around the corner - another venue where McIlroy has enjoyed success.
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 the 14th and 15th 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 and it proved a wise decision as he 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 all week.
McIlroy had slipped to his lowest world ranking since 2009 and started the tournament 51st place in the FedEx Cup standings.
He 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 said. "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.
"This is one of my favourite places in the world - to break the drought by winning here again is awesome. It's awesome to play in front of these people again. 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."
Garrick Higgo outclassed his rivals as he enjoyed his first hole-in-one on the way to a six-shot victory at the Canary Islands Championship - his second in three starts. The left-hander was two clear of the field overnight, and he had consolidated his advantage with three birdies over the first six holes before his moment of perfection at the short seventh, his nine-iron pitching just short of the pin, 166 yards away, and hopping into the cup for an ace.
It took the South African six shots ahead and he added another birdie on the eighth before picking up two more on 11 and 12 to effectively ensure a procession to victory. A bogey at the 16th hardly mattered. He finished with two pars for a 64 and a winning score of 27 under par.
Higgo, 21, now has three European Tour victories in just 26 starts - a record for a South African on Tour - and he was an astonishing 68 under par for his 12 rounds in the Canary Islands Swing.
“It's amazing," said Higgo, who has leapt to fifth on the Race to Dubai. "I'm just really happy and thankful. It's not easy to lead, the other day was my first time and in this game anything can happen."
He had Ernie Els' record winning score of 29 under par in his sights, but his dropped shot at the 16th put paid to him sending another European Tour record tumbling.
"I was trying to shoot 30 under," he added. "It's unreal, I played so well today. I hit the ball very nicely so it was a lot less stressful than the last time because I was hitting it a lot better. I can't believe it happened so quickly again but my game has been good so I can believe it as well.
"I've been working really hard, a lot of little things, and I've also accepted what works for me and stuck with that, I think that's been a big thing, and not if I don't play as well look for something. I'm just going to try and keep going.
"I think I can go as high as I want to, the way I'm playing I can do a lot of good things.”
Australian Maverick Antcliff birdied the last to complete a closing 65 and win the race for second place ahead of Tapio Pulkkanen, while Ireland's Niall Kearney soared 33 places up the leaderboard with a brilliant 61, including nine birdies and one eagle.
Kearney's late surge earned him a share of fourth place with last week's champion, Dean Burmester, with Andrew 'Beef' Johnston making a welcome appearance in the top five for the first time since the Celtic Classic last August.
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