Jared Fialko

McIlroy's 11th-hour call changed Wells Fargo

Posted May 18, 2015

Scorched earth. That's what's left of Quail Hollow after Rory McIlroy's 267th stroke.

The Northern Ireland-born phenom carved his niche into Charlotte lore, chopping down records by the wayside with his powerful, sweet swing.

No repeat winners in the tourney's history? That little factoid can now be chucked after McIlroy's second victory in the Wells Fargo Championship. Course record? Rory technically shared it after Brendon de Jonge matched his 62 last year. Welp, sharing may be caring, but Mac owns sole possession of that benchmark again after firing a 61 on Saturday (a number which could've been as low as 59, a number he had in mind after draining yet another birdie on 13). Largest margin of victory? Seven strokes better than Patrick Rodgers and Raleigh's Webb Simpson secured that. Finally, tournament record? He had broken Anthony Kim's mark of minus-18 in three rounds, but played self-described "boring" golf on the final day to "only" beat that mark by three shots.

"It's fun to watch him out there, he's our best player right now," said Webb Simpson, who recorded his best finish (-14) at his home course.

"I wasn't thinking that (-21) would be the winning score this week," said McIlroy, who won his 11th PGA Tour event on Sunday. "Usually, somewhere between 12- and 15-under gets the job done here, and if it wasn't for what I did here this week, it would've been the case again."

As of two weeks ago, it absolutely would've been the case. Because if you roll back the clock 10 days, you wouldn't find McIlroy's name on the entry list. Literally, just hours before the deadline, the 2010 champion at Quail Hollow had not entered his name.

"I mean, it was never on my schedule," McIlroy admitted.

Mostly because of the modified date. This year's tournament fell a little later on the calendar than normal. It happened to fall in the middle of a hectic stretch for the four-time Major Championship winner.

"I make my schedule at the start of the year and it was going to be, I felt, very difficult to come and play," said McIlroy.

He had already signed up for the WGC Accenture Match Play in San Francisco, an event he won, and The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Jacksonville for the first two weekends in May. Wells Fargo would've been the doughnut hole surrounding his two other European Tour commits -- the BMW PGA Championship and his own deal, the Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation. Suffice to say, no one would've faulted Rory for taking a raincheck on five straight weeks of tournament play.

"I could've come and given my best, but maybe the two tournaments after that, back in Europe, would've suffered a bit because I would've been tired," he said.

However, a glance at the standings following his 8th place finish at The Masters had Irish eyes not quite smiling.

"The week after Augusta, I looked at the Fed Ex Cup rankings and I was outside the top 100, and I just thought that I should be playing a little bit more."

So, while his mind was made up around mid-April to add another tourney to a stacked schedule, the decision didn't come down until the 11th hour. Participants had until 5 p.m. on May 8 to commit. The press release hit our electronic mailboxes just after 1 p.m. A change of heart, a broken fax, a dead cell phone battery, and who knows? We could've been staring down a 7th playoff in 13 years of the Wells Fargo, between Simpson and Rodgers.

Instead, we were treated to another Mac-attack and a weekend of 21-under-par. A number that seemed way too ho-hum for the champion as he broke down the course in his press conference following Sunday's "W."

"Realistically, for someone with my length off the tee, you should be making six birdies out there," McIlroy explained. "The four Par-5's and the two driveable Par-4's. So, there's six birdies a day and that's 24-under."

Minus-24...just let that number sink in. Well, at least that's a mark McIlroy can strive for in two years when Quail Hollow hosts the PGA Championship. An event he's already won twice before on a course where he's finished outside of the Top-10 just once? Hardly seems fair now, doesn't it?

Currently listening to: Garbage - "I Think I'm Paranoid." One of the more underrated bands of the last 20 years, featuring a downright boss front-lady.

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