Birthday boy Rory McIlroy may be out of his North Carolina victory comfort zone but it won’t deter him in blowing out the candles on a hopeful career first successful defence at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship in Maryland.
There were the sounds of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the now 33-year-old as he teed-up in Wednesday morning’s Pro-Am ahead of this week’s event that for the first time in the 19-year history of the Wells Fargo Championship is being on the TPC Potomac course.
The €8.53m championship has moved to the north-east of Washington DC to accommodate the Quail Hollow host course in suburban Charlotte that is staging September’s Presidents Cup.
McIlroy’s a three-time winner on Quail Hollow, capturing a first PGA Tour title in 2010. He won again in 2015 and then last year, McIlroy sealed a 20th Tour win, ending a 553-day winless drought, five days after he turned 32. Waiting for him on Mother’s Day was wife, Erica, and making her tournament debut, daughter, Poppy.
McIlroy has not played the TPC Potomac course that’s hosted 21 Tour events and the last in 2018 when Italy’s Francesco Molinari won the Quicken Loan National, and three weeks later held off McIlroy to win the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
“Anytime you can defend a title, it’s a nice thing to do,” said McIlroy.
“Obviously my success at this tournament’s been at Quail Hollow and not here. I’ve never played here before, never seen the venue. So, I played 18 holes yesterday (Tuesday) and just played another nine today, so I guess as a replacement for Quail Hollow, it’s a pretty nice one.
“I hadn’t really heard much about the golf course, but from what I’ve seen the last couple days, I really like it. It’s a really — it’s just a solid golf course. You can’t really fake it around here. You’ve got to hit the ball really well, green complexes are tricky, pretty small targets, the rough maybe isn’t up as much as they usually have it here because of the time of year, but overall, a really solid test. Looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.”
While McIlroy looks to become the first in the 19-year history to successfully defend the Wells Fargo strongbox, against him is that he’s yet to win back-to-back in any of his 26 victories on the PGA Tour or DP World Tour.
If he needed extra inspiration this week it’s the fact that TPC Potomac is just two miles from the front gates of Congressional, and where McIlroy captured a first major with his record-setting eight-shot success at the 2011 U.S. Open.
Plus, there’s thoughts of the opportunity for a belated victory birthday celebration.
“They were singing happy birthday to me on the first tee, which was very nice of them,” said McIlroy smiling.
“I don’t know how old I am, I think a 33rd birthday isn’t really much to — sort of right in the middle of 35-something, 30-something, 33 just seems sort of like, me, I don’t know.
“It was just very nice of them to sing happy birthday to me.”
And two groups behind McIlroy will be fellow Irishman Seamus Power who contested the 2018 Quicken Loan National at TPC Potomac, finishing just outside the top-50.
IRISH TEE TIME (Irish tIme)
- Rory McIlroy – 12.34pm
- Seamus Power – 12.56pm
- Full scoring HERE