Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Rory McIlroy hungry to taste winning feeling

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 30:  Alejandra Ayala a 14yr old amateur who won the Wells Fargo Succeding Together contest to play with a player of her choice, talks with Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the pro-am for the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Golf Club on April 30, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 30: Alejandra Ayala a 14yr old amateur who won the Wells Fargo Succeding Together contest to play with a player of her choice, talks with Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland during the pro-am for the Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Golf Club on April 30, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Quail Hollow has already been the scene of one important Rory McIlroy milestone and he aims to chisel another in the Charlotte layout in the Wells Fargo Championship this week.

McIlroy has been without a victory in America for 20 months and he does not want the ticking clock to become a distraction.

For this reason, a second success at the course where the Northern Irishman broke his United States duck in 2010 would suit him perfectly.

“The thing is, I haven't won a PGA Tour event since the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick (in September 2012) and I don't want that going much longer,” McIlroy said.

“I really don't want to go two years without a PGA Tour win. The next big thing is getting back competing, which I am, then getting the wins and building that back up.”

McIlroy finished eighth at the Masters three weeks ago, but because of a second-round 77 he was never in legitimate contention at Augusta National.

Since then, he has been working on his putting, which he believes has been the weakness so far in an otherwise fine ball-striking start to the season.

On the practice greens, the world No 11 has discovered that he has been standing too close to the ball.

As McIlroy pointed out after his pro-am yesterday , the Quail Hollow greens will offer “no excuse.”

He walked for a few holes with putting guru Dave Stockton but after a fortnight working in solitude on “a few things I figured out on Sunday morning at Augusta”, McIlroy was looking more for endorsement than instruction.

Last year, severe weather leading up to the event led to their descent into a mess more befitting a winter league club match.

The greens have all been replaced since then and McIlroy reported them to be in excellent condition.

They have only increased McIlroy's confidence, which belies his fall this week from the world's top 10 for the first time since 2011.

He aims not only to feed off the memories of four years ago — when as a 20-year-old McIlroy thrust himself into the US sporting consciousness with a course-record 62 in the final round to win — but also of two years later when he was beaten in a play-off by Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy will partner the flamboyant young American in the first round today, along with the Swede Jonas Blixt, who finished joint second at the Masters in Augusta.

Inevitably, Korea's Seung-Yul Noh (22), who in New Orleans last Sunday brilliantly clinched the 11th PGA Tour victory this season by a player under 30, will attract much attention this week at a tournament in which four of the last six champions were aged 24 or younger.

Ireland will look with interest to the performance of veteran Major winners Darren Clarke (45) and Padraig Harrington (42) as they try and reignite their careers.

Yet it will come as no surprise if McIlroy marks his 25th birthday on Sunday (and sets the tone for his summer) by achieving his 12th victory as a professional and seventh on the US Tour.

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