CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rory McIlroy enters the next phase of his season knowing that his fortunes can change without notice.
That’s what happened last year.
McIlroy had gone five months without winning, long enough to lose his No. 1 ranking. He also went through a slump so severe that he missed the cut in four out of five tournaments, including his title defense in the U.S. Open. There was only a shred of evidence that his game was coming around when he tied for fifth at Firestone before heading to Kiawah Island for the final major of the year.
One week changed everything. McIlroy won the PGA Championship, and then won consecutive FedEx Cup playoff events and ended the year with another big win in Dubai.
Did he see it coming?
“No, not really,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, scene of his first PGA Tour title in 2010. “I don’t think you do. Of course, you want to try to get in contention and try to win tournaments. But you get comfortable with your game over a period of time and it’s a great feeling. And I wish I had that feeling all the time.”
So maybe there’s hope for McIlroy, who turns 24 on Saturday.
He went through another wretched slump at the start of the year and only lately has shown signs of turning it around. He tied for second in the Texas Open, and at least had a decent finish at the Masters with a 69 on the last day to tie for 25th.
Quail Hollow brings back good memories.
McIlroy was headed toward a missed cut in 2010 until he made eagle on his 16th hole of the second round to make the cut on the number. He got back into contention the next day, and then closed with a 62 for the victory.
He is the top player in a field that is weak by Quail Hollow standards. No. 2 in the world, he is the only top-10 player in the field. The Wells Fargo Championship gets underway today, with McIlroy teeing off in the afternoon.