Rory McIlroy Rolls at Wells Fargo, Next Task Is to Try Ending 10-Year Major Drought

The Ulsterman won for the 26th time on the PGA Tour after a dominant Sunday and next up is Valhalla, where he won his last major in 2014.
Rory McIlroy won for the 26th time on the PGA Tour and the fourth time at Quail Hollow.
Rory McIlroy won for the 26th time on the PGA Tour and the fourth time at Quail Hollow. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —  It probably would have been fun for Xander Schauffele to take in the display he witnessed Sunday were he not trying to accomplish the same goal.

With a first victory in 22 months at stake and playing some pretty good golf himself this week at Quail Hollow, Schauffele, unfortunately, ran up against Rory McIlroy, who made it look easy on Sunday during the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

His 6-under-par 65 was the best score of the day and included a meaningless double bogey on the final hole. He beat Schauffele by five and the rest of the field by eight and heads to the PGA Championship this week in the kind of form one dreams about heading to a major.

MORE: Final results, payouts from Wells Fargo

“When you take a step back, yeah. He’s Rory McIlroy, you know?” Schauffele said. “He hits it 350 yards in the air downwind and he has shorter clubs into firm greens than anyone else. When he’s on, he’s on. Hats off to him for winning. He played unbelievably well.”

Schauffele, who held a one-shot lead entering the final round, finished with an even-par 71. It was likely going to take more than that to beat McIlroy, but through seven holes he had a two-shot advantage after eagling the par-5.

But McIlroy bounced back with birdies at the 8th and 9th holes to tie, took his first lead when he made a 30-footer for eagle at the 10th and then went up by two shots when Schauffele bogeyed the 12th.

With a birdie at the 13th coupled with a Schauffele bogey, McIlroy was up by four shots—a six-shot swing in six holes.

He then birdied the short par-4 14th and eagled the 15th when he holed a bunker shot. At that point, he led by seven.

“He played unbelievable,” Schauffele said. “Looked up at the board and I'm like dang, he's 6 under through 6 on the back nine.”

It was the fourth time this year that Schauffele, ranked fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking, was in the final group but failed to win. He had chances at the Sentry, Genesis Invitational and the Players Championship, where he tied for second.

Working through a swing change with new instructor Chris Como, Schauffele has remained amazingly consistent even if he’s frustrated by not winning since the 2022 Genesis Scottish Open.

It wasn’t all that long ago that McIlroy, ranked second in the world to Scottie Scheffler, was also searching. After winning in Dubai back in January, he had a lackluster run through the PGA Tour schedule, with modest success at both the Valero Texas Open and the Masters.

A visit with instructor Butch Harmon helped but it was his victory two weeks ago with Shane Lowry at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans that really gave him a boost of confidence that he carried into Quail Hollow.

“I think part of it was technical,” McIlroy said. “I was missing a lot of shots left. I think that was really it. Then missing those shots left, not having full confidence in what I was doing with my swing, and that sort of bleeds into the rest of your game.

“I've always said whenever I'm driving the ball well and hitting the ball well, I think it sort of—you know, it goes the other way and it feeds into my short game and my putting and I can get confidence from that. So it just needed like a little spark, and I think getting that spark—there was signs of life, San Antonio, Augusta, but getting that little spark in New Orleans and getting the win there with Shane definitely gave me a lot of confidence.”

McIlroy, 35, did a lot right at a place that he could almost call home. It was where he got his first PGA Tour victory in 2010 and where he’s now won four times. He was first in the field in strokes-gained off-the-tee and strokes-gained tee-to-green and led the field in driving distance, averaging 325 yards off the tee.

Throw in eighth in putting—he had just 25 putts on Sunday—and that’s a tough combination to beat.

The win was the 26th of McIlroy’s PGA Tour and he couldn’t help but note the similarities to 10 years ago.

McIlroy won the British Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational prior to winning the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

At the time, the WGC was similar to what a signature event is now and McIlroy rolled right into Louisville and kept it going. It was his second major title in a month and fourth overall.

“It's really funny, so going into Valhalla in 2014 I had won my last two starts, and going into this year I've won my last two starts,” he said. “Just need to try to replicate whatever I did in 2014, just try to do that all over again. I'm feeling really good with my game. I need to stay in my own little world next week and not get too far ahead of myself, but if you can step on to the first tee at Valhalla on Thursday and feel as good about my game as I did today, I think I'll have a good chance.”

 


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a golf writer for SI.com and the author of the book "DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods," which publishes in March and can be ordered here.