McIlroy makes third stop on 5-week run ‘happy’ with game

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Rory McIlroy Express rolled into Charlotte on Wednesday, as the World No. 1 readies for the third stop (Wells Fargo Championship) in a stretch of five consecutive events.

Behind him are the WGC-Cadillac Match Play (win) and The Players Championship (T-8), and next week begins a two-week stretch abroad as he’ll play the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and the Irish Open, to be staged at Royal County Down in his native Northern Ireland.

Understandably, he’s conserving as much energy as he can, flying into Charlotte at midday Wednesday and playing in the final spot in the pro-am.

“I’m trying to put all my energy into the four tournament days when I get here,” he said.

Inconsistent putting kept McIlroy from being more in the mix Sunday at TPC Sawgrass (he finished four shots out of the playoff, won by Rickie Fowler).

At Quail Hollow, he spent a few minutes with Dave Stockton talking about his stroke and what he could improve upon.

“I’m happy with where my game is,” McIlroy said. “Tee to green, it’s been really good. Didn’t get the putts to drop (last week), but from what I witnessed out there today, you know, feeling a little more comfortable on the greens. Hopefully that can show over the next few days.”

McIlroy said his post-Players time in south Florida during the past couple of days was a combination of work and rest. He has two buddies in town who wanted to see and play his home course, The Bear’s Club, so McIlroy obliged, playing 18 on Monday and nine the next.

While at The Bear’s Club, McIlroy also had a chance meeting with Jack Nicklaus, to whom he’d just penned a letter to tell the 18-time major winner that his busy schedule won’t permit him to play The Memorial in a few weeks.

McIlroy said he wanted to write Nicklaus rather than simply phone him, and Nicklaus seemed to appreciate the effort.

“I have played the Memorial every year since coming over here,” McIlroy said, “so he was happy, and I told him I’m already looking forward to the event next year.”

Wednesday in the pro-am at Quail Hollow, McIlroy was paired with 16-year-old Grace Vaughan, who won a First Tee participants’ Succeeding Together” essay contest. Vaughan has hereditary spherocytosis, a genetic condition that affects the red blood cells. At age 3, Grace had her spleen removed as treatment for the severe anemia and other effects of the disorder.

McIlroy and Vaughan, who is from South Carolina, enjoyed their pairing, with McIlroy spending a good deal of his time helping her with her putting.

“I had a great time,” McIlroy said. “I wish every pro-am was like that, to be honest.”

McIlroy captured his first PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow in 2010 (shooting 62 on Sunday) and was a runner-up in 2012, losing in a three-way playoff won by Fowler.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago, but yeah, great to be back,” McIlroy said.

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