Rory McIlroy on why he nearly pulled out of Quail Hollow, on Wednesday
PGA Tour title number 19 confirmed, up to world number seven and heading to Kiawah Island, soon, to see if Rory McIlroy can win himself another USPGA trophy. Things are looking up.
From the travails of March and April, as he tried to rejig his swing and rediscover his confidence, to the highs of Quail Hollow golf course in North Carolina, on Sunday. It has been a year, so far, of plateaus and troughs for McIlroy but he had an uplifting peak at one of his favourite golf courses.
Without a win since the autumn of 2019, the Holywood native brought out that old magic from Friday to Sunday to leave an elite field in his wake.
McIlroy was on the verge of tears as he raised the Wells Fargo Championship trophy and spoke to the media, beside the 18th green that saw him walk off as a winner despite a nervy tee-shot that saw him taking a drop from a water hazard and having to dig out one hell of a recovery shot.
Reckon at least 80% of Irish people would have shanked this one.
Under the pressure, Rory found the dancefloor.pic.twitter.com/O1alazjFCt
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) May 10, 2021
In his post-championship press briefing, not long after he had embraced his wife and daughter, McIlroy revealed how close he had come to missing the entire event.
"I didn't even think I was going to tee off in this tournament, on Wednesday night. Even if I had've had a morning tee-time, on Thursday, I probably would have pulled out.
"I hurt my neck on Wednesday afternoon, and couldn't make a back-swing.
"Everything aligned that I was [teeing] off on Thursday afternoon. I got some treatment so that I could play, and then progressively got a little bit better as the week went on."
Not only did McIlroy's physical condition improve, his game began to take off.
He ground his way around Quail Hollow for an opening round of 72 before going 66, 68, 68 to win his first tournament in 554 days.
On that dicey journey towards getting the bogey, on 18, that confirmed his win, the four-time Major winner paid tribute to Harry Diamond, his caddie.
"I was ready to play that with a lob wedge and Harry came in there with, 'Woah, slow down there. Let's take a step back; let's think about this. Where's the best place you're hitting your third [shot] from?'
"He sort of calmed me down and slowed me down a bit. Ultimately, we made the right decision. I dropped, instead of trying to hit it out of the hazard. I got it on the green and was able to two-putt... This [win] is great, as Harry has been with me, every step of the way."
There has been criticism, in recent months and years, of McIlroy choosing Diamond, a long-time friend, as his caddie. As the 32-year-old pointed out, though, they have now won six trophies as a duo.
The USPGA is coming up next, down at Kiawah Island in South Carolina. McIlroy won the USPGA by eight strokes, in 2012, when it was lasr held at the course.
"It's certainly great timing," he said. "This gives me a great confidence boost, heading in there."