McIlroy looking to take Masters form into Wells Fargo title defence

33-year-old taking comfort in late Augusta form that offered cause for optimism

Rory McIlroy celebrated turning 33 years old on Wednesday by playing a pro-am with youngsters benefitting from the First Tee programme, whose aim is to make golf more accessible to communities across the United States, whilst also juggling a number of other tasks.

One of them was signing a new multi-year, multi-million dollar equipment contract with TaylorMade (the amount undisclosed) which includes playing prototype "Rors" irons which he had a hand in designing; another was getting ready for another tilt at the Wells Fargo Championship, a tournament he has already won three times in his career.

What's different this time is that the tournament has shifted from its traditional home at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, to Potomac in Maryland, effectively in the suburbs of Washington DC and close to Congressional, where McIlroy won his only US Open, back in 2011. As an honorary member of the club, he duly took the opportunity to call in and avail of his membership.

For McIlroy, though, the main focus of the week is on going after another win. Appearing competitively for the first time since his runner-up finish to Scottie Scheffler in last month's Masters, the world number seven is looking to make a strong defence of his title.


As he put it, "any time you can defend a title, it's a nice thing to do. Obviously my success at this tournament has been at Quail Hollow and not here (at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farms). "I've never played here before, never seen the venue. So I played 18 holes (on Monday) and 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 of days, I really like it. It’s just a solid golf course. You can’t really fake it around here. You’ve got to hit the ball really well, the green complexes are tricky, pretty small targets, (and) the rough maybe isn’t up as much as they usually have it here because of the time of year, but overall it’s a really solid test.”

McIlroy's form so far this year has been consistent, without actually getting over the winning line. That second place finish at Augusta National was his best performance, in fact, with the player registering three top-10 finishes in his seven tournament appearances. His only missed cut came in the Valero Texas Open, the week before bouncing back at the Masters.


“That (final round at the Masters) gives me comfort knowing that my game is there, not more expectation or pressure. I think that’s always there, always has been. But I got a lot of confidence from that round on Sunday, did a lot of great things. It’s something to definitely build on over the next few weeks,” admitted McIlroy of an upcoming schedule that takes in the season’s final three Majors inside the next 10 weeks: the US PGA at Southern Hills in a fortnight’s time, the US Open at Brookline in June and the 150th Open at St Andrews in July.

And that quest for further Majors will, as expected, be done with TaylorMade clubs in hand in extending a contract which initially brought player and manufacturer back in 2017. McIlroy is part of a stable of players that include Tiger Woods, Scheffler, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa to have extensive deals with the club maker.

“I’ve worked with those guys for five years and hand on heart, they are the best team, they’re the most dedicated people in that business. Never once did it cross my mind to go to another manufacturer. It may have crossed my mind to go with no manufacturer and just sort of do my own thing, but at the end of the day that presents problems as well in terms of having the paradox of choice and there’s so much choice out there.

“Just to really simplify it. At the end of the day, TaylorMade does make the best product in golf. I’m really happy with every single golf club in my bag. I feel like the golf clubs that I have right now are the golf clubs that I can use for the next three, four, five years and be very, very successful with them. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t look at other stuff or you see what else is out there. Of course you keep an eye on things, but I’m really happy with my decision and delighted I’m staying with TaylorMade for the foreseeable future.”

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times