CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rory McIlroy almost didn’t come to Quail Hollow.
The Wells Fargo Championship wasn’t on his schedule at the start of the year, but then he saw in April that he stood outside the top 100 in the FedExCup.
“I said, ‘I need to play a little bit more. I feel like I’m playing well,’ ” McIlroy said. He decided last month to play the Wells Fargo Championship, where he won his first TOUR title.
He should be glad he did.
McIlroy authored a dominant performance reminiscent of last summer, when he won two majors and a World Golf Championship in consecutive starts. He started Sunday with a four-shot lead and shot a final-round 69 for a seven-stroke win. His 72-hole total of 21-under 267 broke Anthony Kim’s tournament scoring record by five shots.
McIlroy is now No. 3 in the FedExCup after entering the Masters at No. 151.
“There’s still a long way to go in that, but it’s always nice to see your name up around the top,” he said.
McIlroy is in the midst of five consecutive tournaments, a stretch that started with his victory at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play and continued at THE PLAYERS Championship, where he finished T8. He left Charlotte for England, where he will defend his title at the BMW PGA Championship. He'll host the Irish Open at Royal County Down the following week.
McIlroy set a Wells Fargo tournament record by making 27 birdies this week. He led the field in driving distance, averaging 321.1 yards off the tee, and was second in greens in regulation (56 of 72).
“I feel like as the best player in the world, I want to go at it every week and, not so much prove it, but just show that,” McIlroy said.
He did, taking control of this tournament with a course-record 61 in the third round. Nine of his 11 birdie putts Saturday were from 10 feet or shorter.
“The way I played yesterday really set me up to go out there today,” McIlroy said. “I was in control of the golf tournament and I just needed to shoot a solid round and that was going to get me over the line.”
He held a six-shot lead Sunday after Webb Simpson, who played alongside him in the final group, made double-bogey at the par-3 sixth hole. McIlroy held a four-shot lead at the turn, though, after Patrick Rodgers went eagle-birdie on Nos. 10 and 11. Rodgers briefly pulled within three shots with a birdie at the par-5 15th, but McIlroy made birdie at the drivable 14th moments later.
McIlroy sealed the deal with an impressive birdie at the 514-yard, par-4 16th while Rodgers was struggling with Quail Hollow’s difficult closing holes. No. 16 was the day's most difficult hole, but McIlroy made it look easy. He hit a 364-yard tee shot, then hit a gap wedge to 3 feet.
“I’ve learned how to handle these positions and I’m finishing the job off the way I should, which is very pleasing,” McIlroy said.
Rory McIlroy's masterful win at the Wells Fargo Championship
RODGERS PLAYING WITH CONFIDENCE: Patrick Rodgers doesn’t have PGA TOUR status, but Sunday he gave the World’s No. 1 player the biggest challenge.
Rodgers, 22, briefly pulled within three shots of Rory McIlroy after holing a 15-footer for birdie on the par-5 15th.
Rodgers, who was in the Wells Fargo field on a sponsor exemption, played the final two holes in 3 over, but still shot 68 and tied Webb Simpson for second place at 14-under 274.
“It was awesome. It was a lot of fun being out there, pushing Rory a little bit,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers would have earned special temporary membership on the PGA TOUR if he’d finished alone in second. That would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the season.
Rodgers’ final-round 68 was one shot off the day’s best score. He played Nos. 9-15 in 6 under par, including an eagle at the par-5 10th, where he made a 20-foot putt.
He is nine FedExCup points short of special temporary status, but has spots in the next three TOUR events.
“I tried to come into this week with a lot of confidence,” Rodgers said. “I feel like my game can. I feel like my game can compete out here, and I'm going the really carry that with me for the next few events.”
He has sponsor exemptions into the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide because he won last year’s Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus awards for his amateur accomplishments. He has a start at the AT&T Byron Nelson sandwiched between those two events. That start came by virtue of his T2 finish this week.
Rodgers turned pro last year after being college golf’s consensus player of the year. He won earlier this year on the Web.com Tour and is No. 3 on that circuit’s money list.
Rodgers played Sunday with his roommate Justin Thomas, who shot 70 finished T7.
“Walking down the first fairway, with all those people out there, I get chills talking about it,” Thomas said. “I tried to talk to him when he was playing well to keep him loose, but he handled it really well.”
Thomas, who posted his fourth consecutive top-25 finish, moved to No. 36 in the FedExCup. The third member of their household, former Oklahoma State player Brad Gehl, finished a career-best T2 on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica on Sunday.
WEBB'S WEEK TO REMEMBER: Quail Hollow member Webb Simpson played in Sunday’s final group, though he trailed Rory McIlroy by four shots. Simpson missed too many fairways and short putts to put early pressure on McIlroy.
Simpson pulled within three shots by holing a 32-foot birdie putt from off the green on No. 2. He missed par putts on No. 1 and 3, though, and a three-putt from 4 feet on the sixth hole dropped him six shots behind McIlroy.
“It was a memorable week, nonetheless,” Simpson said. “Through (No. 6) I made so many mistakes, probably more mistakes than I had all week. That was kind of a killer to be couple over through six with Rory playing pretty solid.
“He was a tough guy to beat today.”
Simpson shot 72 on Sunday. His T2 was his best finish on TOUR since his last win, at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October 2013.
Simpson jumped 25 spots in the FedExCup to No. 31.
PHIL'S FAMILIAR TERRITORY: Phil Mickelson’s success at the Wells Fargo Championship continued, though he still has yet to win this title. His T4 finish was his eighth top-10 in 12 starts at Quail Hollow. Mickelson shot a final-round 68 to finish at 12-under 276.
“I really worked hard on my short putts and putted those phenomenal,” Mickelson said. “I started to drive it better, but, more than that, get my iron shots close to the hole, work it into those pins. I made a lot of birdies this week. That's important.”
Mickelson's 23 birdies were second-most in the field.
“Now, the last step for me is to eliminate some mistakes,” he said. “I had a lot of reckless bogeys and loose bogeys.”
Also noteworthy was the fact that he made on No. 18. He played it 5 over par in the previous three rounds, making a triple-bogey Saturday and double-bogey in the first round.
“It just has my number,” he said.
ODDS & ENDS
Robert Streb moved to No. 10 in the FedExCup with his T4 finish. Streb was the FedExCup leader after the fall portion of the schedule. His T4 was his first top-10 since a T10 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. In nine starts between Wells Fargo and Waste Management, Streb missed five cuts and finished no better than T30. Streb was second in strokes gained: putting this week. Gary Woodland led the field in strokes gained: putting; he also tied with Streb and Phil Mickelson for fourth place.
Geoff Ogilvy made double-bogey on his final hole of the tournament but still finished T7. It was Ogilvy’s first top-20 showing on TOUR since he finished T2 at last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship.
Quail Hollow played to a 71.92 stroke average for the week. The par-4 16th, which McIlroy birdied with a 3-foot putt, was the most difficult hole Sunday, playing to a stroke average of 4.41. The par-5 fifth hole was the easiest, playing to a 4.45 average.
CALL OF THE DAY
Bill Rosinski calls Rory McIlroy's approach at No. 16 on his way to winning at Quail Hollow.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Justin Thomas attacks the flagstick from tee box on No. 13 at Wells Fargo
ROUND 4 STATISTICAL LEADERS
Category Round 4 leader Statistic Weekly leader Statistic Strokes gained: tee-to-green Rory McIlroy 4.82 Rory McIlroy 4.22 Driving distance Sean O'Hair 332.5 yards Rory McIlroy 321.1 yards Driving accuracy Lucas Glover 11 of 14 Webb Simpson 40 of 56 Greens in regulation Jason Bohn, Geoff Ogilvy, Carlos Sainz Jr., Shawn Stefani 15 of 18 Brendan Steele 57 of 72 Strokes gained: putting Ryan Moore 3.60 Gary Woodland 2.48 Putts per round
Phil Mickelson 22 Morgan Hoffmann, Danny Lee 25 Total birdies Patrick Rodgers 7 Rory McIlroy 27
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Rory McIlroy's last five starts: 1st (Wells Fargo) T8 (THE PLAYERS) 1st (Match Play) 4th (The Masters) T11 (Bay Hill) pic.twitter.com/uqggVC6Diw— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 17, 2015
Rory McIlroy's last 10 months have included: 🏆 Wells Fargo 🏆 Match Play 🏆 PGA Champ 🏆 Bridgestone 🏆 Open Championship pic.twitter.com/MUUZ0Nelqv— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 17, 2015