The biggest story going into the Wells Fargo Championship was the poor state of the greens at the usually pristine Quail Hollow Club. Turns out they weren’t so bad, after all — at least not for the seven players who shot five-under 67s in the first round.
Coming off a T25 finish at the Masters, Rory McIlroy joked on Wednesday that he’s not a guy who relies on his putter to score. He knows his game well. On Thursday, McIlroy drove the ball well, finding 11 of 14 fairways, and gave himself plenty of looks for birdie, hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
“Fairways and greens, especially when the conditions are this soft, if you drive the ball well, you can really take advantage of that,” said McIlroy when asked to sump up his day. “And for the most part today I did drive the ball well.”
In a seven-hole stretch, the world no. 2 ran off seven birdies, which was jump-started with a solid drive on no. 5.
“It was nice,” said Rory, who captured his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow in 2010 and finished T2 in 2012 after losing in a playoff to Rickie Fowler. “I felt like I played really well. I hit some really good iron shots, solid drives and gave myself plenty of chances. That’s all you can really ask of yourself. I was able to make a few, and as you said, the one on the last was especially nice.”
Rory, who picked up some bad habits in the offseason, is finally at the point where he feels comfortable with his swing.
“I’ve worked on a little thing with (my swing coach) Michael (Bannon) over the last few days, something that we saw at Augusta,” said McIlroy. “It’s really bettered it nicely already. It was only a tiny little thing, but it’s made a good difference.”
After a bumpy start to the season — where he missed cuts, withdrew after walking off the course, and added a tournament at the last minute to help prep for the Masters — Rory has settled in nicely.
“I think it’s been big strides because my game wasn’t where it should have been at all at the start of the year,” he said. “Got into a couple of bad habits on my swing, and it just took me a little bit of time to get out of them. But now that I feel like I’m swinging it well, this is the sort of golf I expect to play.”
There’s plenty of golf left, but he’s back where he belongs — atop the leaderboard.
“I’ve seen my game progress week by week, which is a good thing,” he said. “There are still 54 holes to play, but it’s a nice start here this week.”
(AP Photo/Bob Leverone)