McIlroy ends title drought with third Wells Fargo Championship

By Sports Desk May 09, 2021

Rory McIlroy ended a wait of almost two years to win a title after claiming his third Wells Fargo Championship.

Not since the WGC-HSBC Champions in November 2019 had former world number one McIlroy reigned supreme on the PGA or European Tour.

However, he snapped his drought at Quail Hollow, where the four-time major champion came from behind to triumph by one stroke thanks to his three-under-par 68 on Sunday.

McIlroy, who was two shots off the pace heading into the final day, held off Abraham Ancer at 10 under to add to his 2010 and 2015 triumphs in the tournament.

A flawless front nine set the tone as McIlroy tallied two birdies before gaining further strokes at the 14th and 15th holes in Charlotte.

McIlroy then narrowly avoided a meltdown when he hooked his tee shot on the par-four 18th hole, where he took a drop and managed to get on the green before two-putting to seal his win.

The Northern Irish star captured his 19th PGA Tour victory in his 196th start, with the Wells Fargo Championship the first tournament McIlroy has won more than twice.

Ancer posted a final-round 66 to secure sole possession of second spot, a shot better off than Viktor Hovland (67) and overnight leader Keith Mitchell (72).

Gary Woodland (71) finished three strokes adrift of McIlroy at seven under through 72 holes, while former Masters champion Patrick Reed's 70 saw him share sixth place alongside Matt Wallace (70) and Luke List (72).

U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau's hasty and expensive U-turn over the weekend resulted in a tie for ninth position – six shots off the pace.

DeChambeau flew home to Dallas on Friday after thinking he missed the cut. When the cut changed, the American star boarded another flight back to Charlotte for Saturday's third round.

In the final round, the powerful American carded a second successive three-under-par 68.

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    World number two Rory McIlroy admits he feels so much responsibility when it comes to the Ryder Cup he starts thinking about it a year out.

    The Northern Irishman won four points from five matches – the best haul of his career in his seventh event – to spearhead Europe’s regaining of the trophy.

    His appearance on the first tee for Sunday’s singles received the biggest cheer and he duly responded with a 3&1 victory over Sam Burns to put his team within touching distance of regaining the trophy.

    “I know my place in the team and I know guys look to me. But I don’t take that responsibility lightly,” he said.

    “It is something that I have to have a lot of respect for and I have to think about it carefully.

    “I want to do all right things and set a good example for the guys coming into the team.”

    Europe’s captain Luke Donald only assumed the position a year ago after Henrik Stenson’s defection to LIV Golf and subsequent resignation of his European Tour membership made him ineligible.

    That was when McIlroy’s thoughts started turning to how to win at Marco Simone.

    “It was probably when Luke got the captaincy and things were certain again, when we had certainty who the captain was and we knew who the six or seven players that were locked in (were),” he added.

    “Maybe about a year ago I really started to think about it and think about how we and could go about getting the Ryder Cup back – which thankfully we did.

    “We want to try to enjoy this for the next couple of years and then get ready for New York (at Bethpage) and try to do something that is very seldom done in golf (win the Ryder Cup overseas).”

    McIlroy has won four majors – albeit none since 2014 – and three big-money FedEx Cups but admits the buzz he gets from being in a Ryder Cup team is something different.

    “It’s amazing. We play an individual sport. Golf is a game where you seldom win – you win two or three times a year and it’s a great year – but we only get one opportunity at this every two years,” he said.

    “To be surrounded by people who care about it as much as you do is very meaningful. The atmosphere we played in this week I don’t think can be replicated in any other golf event in the world.

    “That means something; to be able to play under that pressure and atmosphere, win your point and do what you are supposed to do for your team, it means the world to me and I am sure it means the world to everyone else.

    “These the best days of our lives. This is why we practise, it’s why we sacrifice the time, it is why we put all the hard work and hours in for us to have moments like this where you go out there and be yourself and try to let your talent shine through.

    “I’m really proud of myself because coming off Whistling Straits (where he won just one point in a record 19-9 defeat two years ago) I don’t know if I ever felt so low, not just in a Ryder Cup but in my career in general.

    “The fact the team had the confidence in me to send me out number one on that Sunday and get a point: you can trace my form back over the last couple of years to that last Sunday at Whistling Straits.

    “These guys believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and to have a group around you that does believe in you, it means the world to me.”

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  • Big guns fire, Donald’s picks pay off but US tensions boil over – Ryder Cup Q&A Big guns fire, Donald’s picks pay off but US tensions boil over – Ryder Cup Q&A

    Europe regained the Ryder Cup after beating the United States by 16.5 points to 11.5 points at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the key questions surrounding the 44th contest.

    How important was home advantage?

    Massive and it shows no sign of changing. Eight of the last nine contests have now been won by the home side, the exception being the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in 2012 where Europe recovered from 10-4 down to pull off a remarkable victory.

    Nine of the US team did make a scouting trip to Marco Simone, but many of the European side had contested the Italian Open at the venue over the last three years, with Robert MacIntyre (2022) and Nicolai Hojgaard (2021) lifting the title.

    Add in a partisan crowd and it is no wonder Rory McIlroy feels winning an away Ryder Cup is one of the biggest achievements in golf.

    What about Europe’s big guns?

    The home side boasted three of the world’s top four and 2022 US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick was also in the top 10, but that was no guarantee of success.

    Fitzpatrick had lost all five of his previous matches, while Viktor Hovland halved two and lost three at Whistling Straits, where only Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Tyrrell Hatton won more than a single point.

    McIlroy’s last two Ryder Cups had yielded three points from eight matches but it was a completely different story in Rome.

    McIlroy was top scorer on either side with four points, Hovland and Hatton won three and a half points each and both Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood contributed three each.

    Did Europe captain Luke Donald’s wild cards justify their selection?

    In the vast majority of cases they did, although with six at his disposal a 100 per cent success rate was virtually impossible.

    It was no surprise to see Fleetwood play well and Justin Rose did superbly to partner MacIntyre to one and a half points before running into a motivated Patrick Cantlay in the singles.

    Ludvig Aberg, labelled a “generational talent” when selected by Donald, won a highly creditable two points alongside Hovland and MacIntyre fared even better with two and a half, the only disappointment being Hojgaard taking just half a point from three matches.

    How about Donald himself?

    It is fair to say Donald’s captaincy was an unqualified triumph.

    He took over in difficult circumstances when Henrik Stenson was sacked after joining LIV Golf, but formed an instant rapport with his players and left no stone unturned in his preparation, even taking lessons to ensure he could deliver the first part of his speech at the opening ceremony in fluent Italian while counterpart Zach Johnson grappled with the few words and phrases he used.

    As a former world number one who was never on a losing Ryder Cup side, Donald also had the respect of his players and made good use of the detailed statistics provided by vice-captain Edoardo Molinari.

    What did the Americans get wrong?

    Johnson was accused of pandering to a powerful clique of players when selecting Justin Thomas and Sam Burns over the likes of Cameron Young, Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover, with Burns thought to benefit from his friendship with Scottie Scheffler.

    They duly played together in the first session but lost convincingly and did not play together again.

    In addition, only three of the US team had played competitively since the Tour Championship at the end of August; Max Homa was top scorer with three and a half points, while Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka each won one and a half.

    Were there tensions in the camp?

    Cantlay claimed reports that he was refusing to wear a USA-branded cap in protest at not being paid to play in the Ryder Cup were “outright lies”, but suggestions that all team members would play the first hole on Sunday without wearing a cap in solidarity proved hit and miss at best.

    Cantlay and good friend Xander Schauffele had missed the scouting trip due to the former’s bachelor party and he was scheduled to get married in Rome immediately after the contest.

    What impact did the lack of LIV players have?

    None whatsoever on the European side, who did not have the chance to call on the experience of the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood, but did not miss the veteran trio in the slightest.

    It is impossible to know whether Dustin Johnson – who won all five of his matches in 2021 – or Bryson DeChambeau would have made any difference to the outcome, although the fact that the United States have not won on European soil since 1993 offers a clue.

    When is the next Ryder Cup?

    The Black Course at Bethpage State Park will host the next Ryder Cup in September 2025, while the next on European soil will take place two years later at Adare Manor in Ireland.

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