Rory McIlroy has already created Wells Fargo Championship history in winning two of the prestigious Charlotte events and he tees-up on Thursday looking to add a third to his ever-growing trophy haul.
The event was first contested in 2003 as the Wachovia Championship and in 2009 and 2010, it was without a sponsor and known simply as the Quail Hollow Championship.
The 2010 championship remains very special to McIlroy as it was his first of now 15 PGA Tour successes, with the Ulsterman producing a blistering final day 62 to win by four shots from Phil Mickelson.
And now, after a fortnight’s break from competition following his disappointing Masters showing, McIlroy has returned to Quail Hollow where he also won by an even more impressive seven shots in 2015.
This year will also be somewhat special for McIlroy as he’ll turn 30 on Saturday with organisers, as they have done in the past, surely to have a cake on hand for the birthday boy.
The Holywood star finds himself grouped with Tony Finau and Sergio Garcia for the 17thstaging of the event having picked up seven top-10 finishes already this season, with his only result outside that coming at the Masters.
Unsurprisingly, with Grand Slam expectation in the rear-view mirror, McIlroy has been installed as 6-1 favourite for the event and he’ll head an Irish trio in Charlotte this week, complimented by renaissance man, Seamus Power and European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington.
Power has been in a rich vein of form after recording consecutive top-10 finishes at the RBC Heritage and the Zurich Classic over the past two weeks and having burst back inside the top-125 in the FedExCup standings, he’ll be hoping to keep the pedal to the floor in a bid to accelerate his securing of a PGA Tour playoff spot before August.
The West Waterford professional tied for 27thin Charlotte last year and will once again be able to avail of home comforts as a resident of North Carolina. While just to extend the feel-good factor of their perfect partnership at the Zurich last week, Power has been drawn alongside great friend, David Hearn for the opening two days after the pair placed in a tie for fifth on Sunday.
Harrington meanwhile has had his Ryder Cup hat on this week after disappointing beside hopeful European Team prospect, Shane Lowry last week in New Orleans. With the pair bowing out of the tournament at the halfway stage, Harrington made his first trip to Whistling Straits, the site of the 2020 biennial contest to check out some options for team rooms at the golf course and hotel.
The three-time Major winner’s pre-season was plagued by a wrist injury since Christmas and having played very little golf this term to date, he’ll be looking to park captaincy duties this week to focus on rekindling his own love affair with the individual aspect of competitive golf.
There was good news for the championship itself with Wells Fargo announcing before the tournament its commitment to sponsor the competition through to 2024, with Quail Hollow Club, home to the Wells Fargo Championship since its PGA Tour debut in 2003, continuing to host the event.
“Since 2003, the Wells Fargo Championship has established itself as a premier event in the sports-rich city of Charlotte, with a supportive fan base, outstanding host venue and highly engaged title sponsor,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan.
“It also continues to impact the community through the charitable efforts of Champions for Education, for which Wells Fargo has played a major role. The Wells Fargo Championship is a favourite stop among our players, and we are excited to announce that this relationship will continue for an additional five years.”
The 2018 Wells Fargo Championship generated more than $1.5 million for Charlotte-area charitable organisations, raising the tournament’s all-time total to $22 million. Jason Day returns as defending champion, winning last year by two strokes over Aaron Wise and Nick Watney. It was his 12th career PGA Tour victory.
Irish tee-times (Irish Time)
12pm – Power, David Hearn and Ollie Schniederjans
13.10 – Harrington, Brandon Harkins and Will MacKenzie
17.50 – McIlroy, Tony Finau and Sergio Garcia