Thursday 19 April 2018

McIlroy back on happy hunting ground

Rory McIlroy (PA)
Rory McIlroy (PA)
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rory McIlroy celebrates his 27th birthday today and he can make it a week to remember at one of his favourite hunting grounds - Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, venue for the Wells Fargo Championship.

Six years ago, two days before he turned 21, McIlroy garnered his first victory on the PGA Tour in the Wells Fargo.

That breakthrough success on the toughest Tour in the world presented the young Ulsterman's credentials to his peers as a serious contender for honours.

It's not as if they doubted he would eventually join the pantheon of Tour champions, but until a player converts potential into trophies, the question marks endure.

Quail Hollow, 2010, dispelled any lingering doubts, and from the moment the final putt dropped that fateful afternoon, McIlroy's rise to the very highest level of the game was inevitable.

That said, Quail Hollow, 2015, was no ordinary tournament for the still-young Ulsterman.

McIlroy set a raft of new records including: new course record 61: he (2010) and Brendon De Jonge (2014) had owned the previous best of 62; and a new 72-hole scoring record of 21-under par 267.

Apart from last year, when the tournament dates were May 14-17, McIlroy's birthday usually coincides with Quail Hollow.

"It's cool to celebrate your birthday here," he said.

McIlroy will hope the magic continues as he needs a good bounce-back on his first appearance since a disappointing tied-10 finish in the Masters.

He could hardly choose a better tournament in which to erase the Augusta memories.

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