Monday 22 July 2019

Single-minded McIlroy finds right match on course

Rory McIlroy hoists up the winning trophy after his second Quail Hollow win during the final round at Quail Hollow Club. Rory McIllroy becomes the first two time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Rory McIlroy hoists up the winning trophy after his second Quail Hollow win during the final round at Quail Hollow Club. Rory McIllroy becomes the first two time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Rory McIlroy with the trophy after claiming the Wells Fargo Championship for the second time

James Corrigan

What with winning his second tournament in three weeks in North Carolina on Sunday night before boarding a private jet to fly him through the night to London, Rory McIlroy was struggling yesterday to take in the previous 24 hours never mind the last year.

But after a sponsor's appearance in Regent Street, the Holywood ace was able to reflect on 12 staggering months which began with him calling off an impending wedding and have finished with him creating a huge divide to his nearest rival.

Without wishing to sound cruel or flippant about his break-up with Caroline Wozniacki, it would be tempting to view McIlroy as a fine advertisement for the single life.

The truth is, he is now in another relationship, but the bells are hardly clanging in the distance.

Rather, it is the US Open beckoning and, after Chambers Bay in four weeks, there is the Open and then the US PGA.

And he restated at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday that, despite the recent boy's own heroics of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, he remains the undisputed No 1.

Maybe it is just coincidence (and let us recognise that McIlroy and Wozniacki were an item when he shot to the top of the rankings in 2012).

But, having won only won once in the 18 months before the split, he has proceeded to win seven times in the year since.

In this period has won almost twice as many world ranking points as his closest pursuer, Spieth.

In his last 19 starts, he has won six times, and finished in the top five 12 times and the top 10 15 times. Quail Hollow's seven-stroke triumph was a microcosm of his current dominance.

"I've gone on runs of form before, but nothing like this for this amount of time," McIlroy (below) said.

"Seven titles in 12 months, and there's been a few Majors and a few WGCs in there as well. It's the consistency that's been the thing that's marked out this spell. Like I said after Quail Hollow, I'm firing on all cylinders."

What a difference in scenarios as he approaches this week's BMW PGA Championship this time around before what should be a rapturous homecoming at next week's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down.

At this stage in 2014 he was in the process of preparing a statement which would announce that he and Wozniacki had ended their engagement.

On the Sunday, McIlroy, along with his fiancée, had sent out the invitations to the November nuptials in New York.

Suddenly, he decided he could not go ahead. Phones rang, jaws dropped. It transcended golf.

The statement went out on the Wednesday morning and a few hours later he faced the press. With his head bowed and his hands shaking,

McIlroy said he would honour his commitment to play at the European Tour's flagship ever.

During an excruciating 10 minutes he looked incapable of walking 18 hours, never mind contending. But somehow he came through, shooting a final-round 66 to make up a seven-shot deficit.

"In a way it probably actually helped as I couldn't wait to get on the golf course. It was my sanctuary, where I could get away from everything," McIlroy said.

"I had five hours to focus on golf and getting the ball in the hole. And I proved to myself that on a course where I hadn't done well, that I could win.


"That was important, particularly with the circumstances and everything. Of course, every win is important, but I would put Wentworth right up there."

Fatigue might be the biggest obstacle preventing him repeating the trick.

McIlroy was his usual, charming self as he fulfilled his obligations at Nike Town, his sponsor's HQ shop.

Chris Kamara, the former footballer turned Sky Sports jester, rattled through a Q&A and McIlroy gave an insight into his hectic existence.

Today will be a day of rest before he plays in tomorrow's pro-am alongside Niall Horan, of One Direction fame, as well as Paul Scholes and Phil Neville.

As a lifelong red, this will be a giddying and frenzied mix of business and pleasure.

But then he will get down to it. Again.

"This has been a great momentum-builder going into the thick of the season. We've got three Majors coming up and I don't feel like my game has ever been better," McIlroy said.

"But saying that, perhaps last summer I was playing a little better.

"I still feel there's a couple little areas of my game I can sharpen up on." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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