Wells Fargo Stagecoaches, Gun-Toting Bandits, Horses & McIlroy

Bernie McGuire
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Wells Fargo Stagecoaches, Gun-Toting Bandits, Horses & McIlroy

Rory McIlroy celebrates with wife Erica and daughter Poppy after winning during the final round of the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Mention of the Wells Fargo Championship trips a switch and has me thinking of stagecoaches being chased by a gang of masked bandits atop of their equally mean-looking horses, firing Colt-45s that never run out of bullets.

It’s an image, I admit, that comes from watching far too many Randolph Scott, John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart Western movies.

Having been in the States for the 2020 Players Championship when PGA Tour Commissioner, Jay Monahan announced on Friday March 13 that the Tour was going into lockdown, it led me to watching Western after Western, after Western.

We were renting an apartment in Port St. Lucie, about 40-mins north of West Palm Beach in Florida, and without any golf on the ‘box’, and given the utter garbage on all but a handful of US TV stations, the only decent viewing were the ‘honest’ Westerns. I was becoming addicted and only because there was nothing else of any substance to watch on free-to-air TV.

How many Westerns do you think Randolph Scott made? Sixty of his 103 movies were Westerns, and before abandoning the States in June 2020, I think I must have watched every one of them. Probably a better question would be how many baddies did he bump off in those 60 movies? I must go back and check!

You’re going to agree, ‘Yes, you’ve been watching too many Westerns’, when I say that the Wells Fargo Championship is a bit like a Western, the best golfers in the world chasing down a stage coach full of cash, firing eagles and birdies, others dropping by the wayside with bogeys and doubles, and the best emerging to ride off with the cash.

And this year’s Wells Fargo strong box contains a cool $9m.

Continuing the theme as there’s a real Wells Fargo stagecoach to greet everyone attending the Wells Fargo Championship, and if you look closely at the TV coverage, the tee markers are miniature Wells Fargo stagecoaches.

Not sure if the gift shop at the new host venue of TPC Potomac is selling the tee markers but how cool to have your own Wells Fargo stagecoach.

This week is the 19th hosting of the Wells Fargo Championship, and in the state of Maryland after so many years in North Carolina, with Rory McIlroy the defending champion for a second occasion, having broken through to capture a maiden Tour title in 2010 at the then Quail Hollow Championship.

McIlroy won again in 2015 while last year at Quail Hollow in suburban Charlotte and we vividly recall the team-work up the 72nd hole when McIlroy and caddy Harry Diamond got their heads together when McIlroy’s final drive landed in thick grass, inside the hazard line of the stream that runs the entire length of the 18th.

McIlroy felt strongly about having a decent shot from the penalty area but Diamond opted for the safer penalty drop, with McIlroy agreeing ahead of finding the green in three and winning by a shot. McIlroy was naturally full of praise for the Best Man at his wedding.

“Harry was awesome out there today, especially that decision on the last,” said McIlroy. “I was ready to get in there and try to play that with a lob wedge and he was sort of like, ‘Let’s take a step back, let’s think about this, where’s the best place you’re hitting your third from’.

“So, he sort of calmed me down and slowed me down a little bit and said, ‘Pal, let’s just think about this a little bit’.”

McIlroy’s 19th PGA Tour victory, coming five days after he had turned 32 and also on Mother’s Day, ended a 553-day winless drought, and there waiting for him at the back of the final green was wife, Erica, and making her tournament debut daughter, Poppy.

“For it to be Erica’s first Mother’s Day and for her to be here with Poppy, really, really cool,” he said.

“It was hard for me not to think of that coming down the last few holes and how cool that would be to see them at the back of the 18th green, but I had more pressing issues at the time, so it was pretty easy to get it out of my head. Really cool for them to be here and to be able to celebrate today.”

The Wells Fargo Championship is the only event in McIlroy’s 32-tournament pro career he’s won three times.

So, can golf’s Randolph Scott keep the ‘baddies’ at bay and make it four Wells Fargo victory cash boxes?

Seamus Power also takes his chance in the field.

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