Rory McIlroy eagles from bunker in final round masterclass to win Wells Fargo Championship

Watch Rory McIlroy eagle perfect bunker shot in dominant Wells Fargo Championship victory
Rory McIlroy is full of confidence heading to the PGA Championship - Getty Images /Andrew Redington

Rory McIlroy produced a burst of outrageous golf to send himself to the PGA Championship in Valhalla – the scene of his most recent major triumph – looking more confident than ever of finally ending his 10-year majorless run.

With a 65 – that would have been so much more destructive had he not taken a double-bogey on the last – McIlroy reduced Xander Schauffele’s challenge to rubble as the Northern Irishman won the Wells Fargo Championship by five shots after trailing the world No 4 by four going into the weekend.

It was not as if Schauffele played that badly. He was one-under for the last two rounds, but the bouncing, swaggering man from Holywood alongside him was simply invincible, building on his 67 on Saturday to dismantle Schauffele, the reigning Olympic champion, in chilling fashion.

After nine holes of the final round, following some to-ing and fro-ing, the protagonists were level. By the 15th, McIlroy was six clear. He holed his bunker shot on that par five for an eagle and at that stage was eight-under for his last eight holes. He had also eagled the 10th when converting a 30-footer. You would call it PlayStation golf. But this was so brutal it would be given an 18 rating and had no place on a child’s console.

This is what McIlroy had been waiting for as the game gets into the meat of the major season. The 35-year-old enjoyed a fine start to the season in Dubai – finishing first and second – but after the desert went decidedly cold. McIlroy was alarmed enough to seek out the emergency assistance of legendary coach Butch Harmon, but there was little time for fixes before last month’s Masters.

The world No 2 struggled to a top 25 finish, but was buoyed by the improvements. Do not underestimate how much the win at the Zurich Classic benefited him a fortnight ago. Granted, it was only the PGA Tour’s pairs’ competition and he had compatriot Shane Lowry playing half of the shots in the foursomes, but McIlroy was supreme in New Orleans and the enjoyment of the experience looks to have freed him up.

He ended up on the stage that Sunday night singing “Don’t Stop Believin” and although there was no Karaoke reprise here – thank goodness – there was every sense that he was not hanging on to that feeling.

“Yeah, I really got some confidence from New Orleans, winning with Shane, and then yeah, coming into this week at a golf course that I’m comfortable at, my golf swing feels a lot more comfortable,” he said. “So going to a venue next week where I’ve won, it feels like the stars are aligning a little bit. Going into the next major of the year feeling really good about myself.

“Yeah, I feel like these people have sort of watched me grow up from winning here as a 20-year-old to being the ripe old age of 35 now. They’ve sort of seen my progression throughout my career, and I’ve been lucky enough to win here four times. Yeah, the support that I get here is absolutely amazing. It’s one of my favorite stops of the year and can’t wait to keep coming back and see how many I can get.”

Rory McIlroy eagle perfect bunker shot in dominant Wells Fargo Championship victory
Rory McIlroy won by five shots - Getty Images/itAndrew Redington

Most promisingly his wedge play appeared revitalised and that has been his Achilles heel for so long. McIlroy joked on Saturday night that he “felt like Scottie Scheffler” having not made a bogey in 36 holes. It was tongue-in-cheek but bold and after birdieing the first – with a wedge from 130 yards to a few feet that would have made Harmon drool – he made the error on the fourth.

At this point, Schauffele – who has not won since the Scottish Open in 2022 and if he was a goalkeeper would be termed “dodgy” – still had control of the ball. Cue McIlroy’s inswingers and Schauffele fizzled out with bogeys on the 12th and 13th and the crowd proceeded into “Rorymania”. Only Tiger cheers eclipse Rory cheers nowadays.

The feeling is clearly mutual. The noise here was off the scale as he approached the denouement and when his magical sand swipe all but confirmed matters on the 15th, the crowd roared him home. Charlotte is a sports city and wants to be bigger in that department, and after McIlroy won his first PGA Tour here as a 20-year-old they have taken to him as their own. He has certainly made the layout his own personal preserve.

“This is a tough course,” Tommy Fleetwood, his Ryder Cup partner, said after finishing in the top 15 on two-under. “I’m not sure how Rory does it. He is obviously in great nick for next week.”

Korda misses out on record sixth LPGA Tour win in a row

Nelly Korda’s pursuit of making LPGA Tour history came to an end in New Jersey on Sunday night when she failed to win a sixth successive tournament.

The 25-year-old drew level with legends Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez on five wins in a row at the Chevron Championship – the female major – three weeks ago. But on a Montclair course where she has yet to contend, Korda had to be content with a top-10 finish.

Having started the final round in a tie for third, but 11 behind leader Madelene Sagstrom, with Rose Zhang one behind and making this a two-golfer race, Korda knew her chances were gone after a third-round 73. Befitting a great of the sport, the American did not shrug her shoulders but berated her poor play.

“Poor in all aspects,” Korda said. “That’s just pretty much golf for you. Just made too many kind of stupid, silly mistakes. Yeah, I’ve played really good golf the past couple months, but I’m human, so I’m going to have bad days. I’m not going to feel 100 percent out here mentally, physically, or whatever, but I’m going to give it my all and fight until the end.”

Perhaps it is a positive for the Korda streak to come to a close before the US Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club at the end of the month. That is undoubtedly the most prestigious tournament in the female game and the pressure on Korda going to Pennsylvania layout not only to win her first professional US national championship but also to retain a remarkable run would probably have been too much.

On the Ladies European Tour, England’s Charley Hull recorded her eighth runner-up finish since her last victory in Texas, on the LPGA Tour, 18 months ago. The world No 8 paid for her slow opening round of 72 in the Aramco Series to fail in her game of catch up. Hull’s 67 took her to 68 and a seven-under total, three behind the local favourite Hyo-Joo Kim.

“I’m pretty happy with the way I played. I played solid all day but Hyo-Joo just kind of ran away with it at the end,” Hull said.  “I just couldn’t hole the putts coming in. But I’m happy with my week. It’s [disappointing] when you come second again but it’s OK.” Hull finished second at last year’s US Women’s Open and will be confident of denying Korda.

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