Rory McIlroy faced the media as a PGA Tour winner for the first time in 18 months and revealed he almost had to pull out of this week’s Wells Fargo Championship due to injury.
McIlroy admitted he “probably would have pulled out” had he had an early tee time on Thursday morning after he suffered a neck injury during his final preparations on the eve of the tournament at Quail Hollow.
Fortunately, he was able to undergo the required treatment to alleviate the issue and allow him to tee up shortly after lunchtime in the first round, although he gave little indication of a possible title challenge as he opened with a one-over 72.
But a second-round 66 propelled him into contention and, after a 68 on Saturday kept him within two shots of the lead, he closed with another 68 on the final day to pip Abraham Ancer to the title, McIlroy’s third win in the event – 11 years after his memorable PGA Tour breakthrough at his most successful venue.
“I didn’t even think I was going to tee off in this tournament Wednesday night,” said McIlroy. “If I had had a morning tee time on Thursday, I probably would have pulled out because I hurt my neck on Wednesday afternoon and couldn’t make a backswing.
“But everything just sort of aligned. I was off on Thursday afternoon, I got enough treatment so that I could play and then progressively got a little bit better as the week went on. So it’s just amazing how these little things, they all add up.”
McIlroy hinted that celebrating his 32nd birthday on Tuesday may have been a contributory factor to his injury scare as he explained how the problem emerged during practice.
“It’s no coincidence that I turned 32 the day before,” he added with a wry smile. “I had a really good practice session on the range, hit a three-iron, flushed it and I turned back to talk to Harry. And as I turned, the left side of my neck just completely locked up and I couldn’t move it. It was really, really strange.
“So I stopped what I was doing and I went and got some treatment. I iced it all of Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night. When I woke up Thursday, I didn’t have much movement. I was trying to make a backswing and could only maybe take it half the way back before it started to catch.
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“As I said, if I had been playing early Thursday morning, I probably would have pulled out, but I had enough time to get treatment Thursday morning and get it loosened up. It was still bothering me on Thursday afternoon, and people probably saw the tape that was on my neck, but it sort of loosened up as the week went on.
“Again, just all these tiny little things that you need to go right to win golf tournaments and thankfully I had an afternoon tee time on Thursday that allowed me to at least tee it up.”
McIlroy now heads into the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island with renewed confidence of ending his major drought, and he is looking forward to returning to the Ocean Course – the venue for his record-breaking eight-shot victory in the PGA nine years ago.
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May 10, 2021, 7:00pm
“This victory is very important going into Kiawah in a couple weeks’ time,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I played really well there last time. I’m honestly not sure whether they’ve made any changes to the golf course since, but I’ll go up there and try to do my homework and re-familiarise myself with the layout a little bit.
“But this is certainly great timing. This is obviously a huge confidence boost going in there knowing that my game is closer than it has been. I’ll be able to poke holes in everything that I did today, it’s certainly far from perfect, but this one is validation that I’m on the right track.”
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