Confidence boosted, Rory McIlroy targets fourth win at Wells Fargo

By Thomson Reuters May 8, 2024 | 6:40 PM

Three-time tournament champion Rory McIlroy headlines a field of just 69 players at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.

The $20 million signature event is the last tune-up for some of the best players in the world before the PGA Championship next week. McIlroy, the Wells Fargo champion in 2010, 2015 and 2021, is the highest-ranked player in the field (No. 2) and the tournament favorite after he teamed up with Shane Lowry to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans two weeks ago.

While McIlroy is entangled with the latest off-the-course news — a plan for him to take over Webb Simpson’s seat on the PGA Tour policy board garnered resistance from some of his peers — he feels winning the team event in New Orleans “freed” him up a bit.

“I think it did a world of good for both of us, for Shane and I, just in terms of setting us up for the rest of the season, giving us some confidence knowing that we could get the job done whenever we needed to,” the Northern Irishman said.

The only player ranked higher in the Official World Golf Ranking, Scottie Scheffler, is taking another week off as he and his wife Meredith Scheffler await the birth of their first child. Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg (the World No. 6) also backed out to tend to a knee issue, but seven of the world’s top 10 are in Charlotte to prepare for the next major championship while also chasing a major payday.

“This is one of my favorite tour events, one of my favorite golf courses,” defending champion Wyndham Clark said. “If there’s anything that I before the year get excited about, it’s this event. So I’m really focused on this week. It’s fun, it’s my first chance to defend. I don’t know what that’s like, so it’s been exciting.”

Clark shot a course-record 265 last year en route to beating Xander Schauffele by four strokes. Six weeks later, the previously anonymous Clark broke through and won his first major at the U.S. Open.

A lot has changed for the 30-year-old, who entered last year’s Wells Fargo ranked No. 163 in the world. He’s now No. 3.

“It’s honestly really humbling and fun to be in this position,” Clark said. “I’m just really looking to continue to grow and get better. I like to think this is just the beginning, and hopefully it’s the start of a lot of really good golf in the future years.”

Clark, Schauffele and Lowry make up one threesome that will tee off on the back nine of Quail Hollow on Thursday. The tournament moved first-round tee times back three hours in reaction to thunderstorms in the weather forecast. The first groups will go off at 11 a.m.

That won’t be a problem for such a small field, a distillation of the best players on the PGA Tour and the players who’ve earned their way into signature events via the Aon Swing 5. Last week’s winner of the CJ Cup Byron Nelson, Taylor Pendrith of Canada, and last week’s runner-up Ben Kohles are in the field via that pathway.

Another player to watch is Max Homa, who not only won the event in 2019 and 2022 but also went a perfect 4-0-0 at the 2022 Presidents Cup held at Quail Hollow.

“Yeah, always one of my favorite cities that we go to,” Homa said. “I love this place, love the food, got family, friends here, love the golf course, have some cool memories that I always get to kind of reminisce on. … Unfortunately might not get the best weather, so I’m soaking in what we’ve got today.”

–Field Level Media