Rory McIlroy looks ripe to plant a third victory cherry atop of his 30th birthday cake in storming his way to the lead on day one of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.
It was very much ‘business as usual’ for McIlroy who brought the Charlotte back-nine to its knees in a round of a stunning five-under par 66 and is tied for the lead with Joel Dahman on day one in the Euro 7.07m event.
“It’s just a fun golf course and it really suits my eye. Every time I step onto this golf course I feel like I have the chance to shoot a good score,” said McIlroy.
“I did not play my best today and I sort of managed my game well, scrambled well but it added-up to a good number at the end of the day.
“I felt like I hit the ball like I should have shot one or two under par so I didn’t feel as though it was a round where … not that I deserved to shoot five-under … but I got the most out of it.
“That is nice and if I am able to continue to do that sort of stuff, which I have done this year, the reason my play has been so consistent is those mediocre rounds and still getting in the house under par and not making the big numbers.
“That’s what I think is going to lead to much more consistency from me which I have started to do, and it’s started to become a strength of my game over the past few years for sure.”
Four players – the American duo of former Masters champ, Patrick Reed and Adam Schenk along with Scotland’s Martin Laird and Canadian Nick Taylor – are tied in third place with four-under par 67s.
McIlroy is now 74-under par for 39 rounds at Quail Hollow and the only player in the 15-year history of the event to lift the victory trophy twice.
The World No. 4 got off to a great start with a birdie on two but it all went quiet with McIlroy sandwiching a greenside bunker bogey at the seventh hole among six other outward pars.
McIlroy finally moved into overtaking mode with birdies at 10 and 11 before three birdies in succession from the 14th, with none better than his ‘3’ at the par-4 16th, the opening hole of the famed ‘Green Mile’ – the three closing holes at Quail Hollow.
McIlroy sent a soaring drive 338-yards down the fairway and then stuck his 160-yard second shot to six-feet for a fifth birdie in seven holes.
He sent another screamer measuring 366-yards off the tee up the 18th ahead of landing a 3/4 wedge shot to five foot and just missing his birdie before tapping in remarkably for just 31 strokes on the back nine.
McIlroy came to the event three weeks after his disappointing T21st finish at the Masters but that’s fish-and-chip wrapping as he now seeks to gift wrap a third Wells Fargo title and, if so, win what would be a 16th PGA Tour title.
Earlier in the day, Seamus Power was left ruiing a final hole double bogey that would have handed the West Waterford golfer a share of the lead.
Power, coming off a very welcome return to form with top-10s in his past two events, was out in the first group but struggled in finding just one of seven outward half fairways.
He then scrambled superbly to save par at each hole to remain at level par through 12 holes.
Power was finally was rewarded with a first birdie in holing a seven-footer at the par-3 13th and then after hitting 3-wood at the 14th, he landed a wedge to six-feet for birdie and move to two-under.
The 32-year old then capped his round after finding a greenside bunker with his second shot at the par-5 15th, Power broke out in a huge smile in sending a 50-foot bunker shot to the bottom of the cup.
The eagle ‘3’ sent Power’s name to the top of a PGA Tour leader-board for a first time in his struggling main Tour career.
Power parred 16 and 17 but gave two shots back when he found a right-hand fairway bunker and then tragically saw his second shot fly left and into a small stream running much of the length down the left side of the fairway.
He walked off with a disappointing double-bogey ‘6’ to drop back into a then share of fourth place but by day’s end was just inside the top-20.
European Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington also doubled the last in a disappointed four-over par 75.
Harrington had bogeyed his opening two holes then took a first double at the 12th before his only birdies in the round at 14 and 15.