Scott Fowler

Rory McIlroy’s dominance is mesmerizing at Quail Hollow

jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Rory McIlroy, the best golfer in the world, finished off the best performance in Wells Fargo Championship history Sunday by making sure no one else ever had a chance.

McIlroy, 26, cruised to a win that sported little drama but lots of incredulity whenever people looked at the Quail Hollow Club scoreboard to check on how thoroughly he was lapping the field.

What was playing the last round like?

“Sort of boring,” McIlroy said, laughing.

And that’s just the way he wanted it. McIlroy set tournament records for the lowest four-round total (267, or 21-under par), the largest margin of victory (seven shots) and the lowest single round (61, on Saturday). Sunday was a sunny cakewalk for the freckle-faced Irishman, as McIlroy never let any other golfer get closer than three shots.

By the time he strode up the 18th fairway, McIlroy literally could have eight-putted the final hole and still have won the tournament.

Instead, he made a par, gave a small fist pump and threw the ball into the crowd in his first moment as the first man to win the Wells Fargo Championship twice.

“I feel like as the best player in the world,” McIlroy said. “I want to go at it every week – not so much (to) prove it but just show that.”

All of it looked a lot like Tiger Woods when Tiger Woods was winning tournaments by a dozen shots 15 years ago.

Like Tiger back then, McIlroy is capable not only of beating entire fields, but also of stomping them into oblivion.

He has done this before – McIlroy has won two major tournaments by eight strokes – and he will do it again. At the moment he is a golfer without peer, and it is a pleasure to watch him work. His winnings Sunday: $1,278,000.

McIlroy oozes confidence, so much that you would call it cockiness were it not for the charming way he delivers the news of his dominance.

“Realistically for someone with my length off the tee,” he said almost apologetically Sunday night, “you should be making six birdies out there – the four par 5s and the two drivable par 4s. There’s six birdies a day. That’s 24 under (in a four-day tournament).”

McIlroy fell three strokes short of that. But he demolished the previous 72-hole Quail Hollow record – set by Anthony Kim in 2008 – by five shots.

McIlroy gave us all a hint of what was to come at the 2010 tournament at Quail Hollow, when he shot 66-62 over the weekend to beat Phil Mickelson and win his first PGA tournament.

Much has happened since. McIlroy has ascended to No. 1, won all over the world and had a well-publicized breakup with Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki in 2014 a few days after the two had sent out wedding invitations.

In his prime

His golf, though, has remained mostly the same. For a long time, McIlroy was considered a golfing prodigy. He once hit a 405-yard drive in competition – as a 15-year-old.

But now McIlroy routinely competes against younger players, and he is thought of not so much as a youngster but as a player smack in the middle of his prime. He does everything well. And on weekends like this one when Rory is really roaring, everyone else plays for second.

“You never expect him to hit bad shots,” Charlotte’s Webb Simpson said. Simpson tied for second with Patrick Rodgers.

Paired with McIlroy, Simpson started the day four behind and ended it seven behind. He never could make a run Sunday in the final group, undone by a balky putter.

The final score looked sort of like a football game, with McIlroy winning, 21-14 (under par) over Simpson and Rodgers. Most tournaments are won by a couple of shots. McIlroy put a touchdown between himself and everybody else.

Making it look easy

Golf is a complicated game, as any duffer can attest, but McIlroy made it look simple. Hit a 350-yard drive, pitch onto the green and make a bunch of putts. How easy is that?

It all made McIlroy happy he made a late addition of Quail Hollow to his schedule. He had not planned to come to Charlotte to play the tournament until mid-April.

“Usually, somewhere between 12- and 15-under gets the job done here,” McIlroy said, alluding to the normal winning score at Quail Hollow. “If it wasn’t for what I did this week, that would have been the case again.”

Instead, McIlroy played the course like no one ever has. It was a remarkable exhibition of an athlete at his best.

Yes, McIlroy called it “boring” on Sunday.

I would use another word: spectacular.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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