Rory McIlroy admitted it “felt like a long time” between victories after claiming his first title since 2019 at the Wells Fargo Championship.
The Northern Irishman survived a scare at the final hole, where his tee shot narrowly avoided a stream to the left of the fairway, to complete a closing 68 for a 10-under-par total and a one-stroke win.
The win is McIlroy’s third at Quail Hollow and lifts him back into the top 10 of the world rankings two weeks before the year’s second major at another of the 32-year-old’s happy hunting grounds.
The US PGA Championship is being staged at Kiawah Island for the first time since McIlroy romped to an eight-shot win there in 2012, and the four-time major winner will now be firmly among the favourites.
“It’s never easy to win out here,” McIlroy said on Sky Sports. “It’s felt like a long time since that victory in China in 2019.
“The world is a completely different place than it used to be, everyone getting through the pandemic, life’s changed a lot for me being a dad.
“Winning on Mother’s Day, thinking of Erica (his wife), thinking of my mum back home. It just feels awesome.
“This is one of my favourite places in the world and to break the drought and win here again, it’s awesome.”
McIlroy came into the week ranked 15th, his lowest position since November 2009, and on the back of a missed cut in the Masters last month.
Having added Pete Cowen to his coaching team in a bid to win a first major since 2014, McIlroy rediscovered his form courtesy of an impressive putting display at an event which provided his first PGA Tour title in 2010 and another in 2015 after a course-record 61 in round three.
McIlroy started the day two behind America’s Keith Mitchell, who immediately bolted three clear with a birdie at the first.
Ryder Cup star McIlroy hit a superb approach to six feet at the third and made a 24-footer for another gain on the seventh.
A par save from 11 feet on the 13th kept him in a share of the lead and McIlroy pulled clear by getting up-and-down from bunkers at the 14th and 15th for birdies.
A wayward drive at the last looked as though it may be costly, but from a hanging lie in the rough McIlroy struck a magnificent 8-iron to the raised green and two-putted for bogey.
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer finished second on nine under after a closing 66, with Mitchell and Norway’s Viktor Hovland sharing third on eight under.