Rory McIlroy is in right place mentally ahead of Wells Fargo, PGA

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Rory McIlroy is in right place mentally ahead of Wells Fargo, PGA

Golf

Rory McIlroy is in right place mentally ahead of Wells Fargo, PGA

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Rory McIlroy isn’t sweating turning 30 on Saturday.

He isn’t uptight about his less-than-stellar performance at Augusta National Golf Club in the Masters in April, where his tie for 21st was the first time he finished outside the top-10 this year.

And he’s certainly not looking ahead to the 101st edition of the PGA Championship, which will be staged in two weeks at Bethpage Black.

No, his mind is on the present. McIlroy’s concerted effort to make sure his attitude is on the good side of par and that the game doesn’t define him has proven to be one of his top weapons this year, one that has included so many solid runs at victory that came up just short and led to criticism that he couldn’t win on Sunday.

He put that to rest at the Players Championship in March, where he won his 15th PGA Tour title and notched his sixth top-6 finish in as many starts since the calendar turned to 2019. He followed with a tie for ninth in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he was eliminated by Tiger Woods, before he turned in a dull effort after driving down Magnolia Lane.

But after two weeks off, McIlroy is refreshed and likes what he sees ahead of him on the schedule. And this week, what’s not to like at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow? McIlroy loves the city, the restaurants and ambiance are strong calling cards in his book, and he has feasted on the golf course.

WELLS FARGO: Tee times for Rounds 1 and 2

In 2010, when he was 20, McIlroy made the cut on the number and then shot 62 in the final round to win his first PGA Tour title. In 2015, he shot 61 in the third round and cruised to a 7-shot victory, becoming the only player to win twice at Quail Hollow.

“It’s always a place that I look forward to coming to every year,” McIlroy said Wednesday after the pro-am. “The course is in great shape. I’m excited to be playing again after a couple weeks off. Got a busy stretch coming up and hopefully I’ll start off with a good tournament this week.”

McIlroy is coming off a two-week break, during which he rested and was able to address a few flaws that popped up in his swing at the Masters. With the tournament’s technology, every shot every player takes is captured on video, and McIlroy called up specific shots he struggled with, such as his approaches to the 11th green and his tee shots on the 17th and determined what needed fixing.

“I guess one of the good things about having two weeks off is you have time to delve into a couple of things,” McIlroy said.

He noticed his posture was a bit slack, and with the aid of Michael Bannon, his coach, McIlroy went to work. He also concentrated on neutralizing his ball flight, which was off a hair at Augusta as he tried to shape the ball to hit big draws and big fades when the course called for that. That isn’t his style of play, however, and he needed to dial back that part of his game.

“Just sort of delved into that a little bit and worked on a couple mechanics and feel a bit better about it,” McIlroy said.

But the four-time major champion won’t delve into the PGA Championship until he gets to Bethpage Black. He’s not putting any extra weight on the second major of the season. Instead, his eye is on winning for a third time at Quail Hollow.

“I’m just playing tournaments, I’m just sort of going through my schedule,” said McIlroy, who won the PGA Championship in 2012 at Kiawah Island and in 2014 at Valhalla. “I don’t know if guys are going to go up early and look at the course or not. I’m not planning to. I’ve never done that for a PGA before and I’ve done pretty well at them. Just treating it like any other event.”

That’s the attitude he wants, and the attitude he’s worked so hard to achieve as he’s talked to people about the right state of mind and turned the pages on numerous books written on the subject.

“If I look back through all the success that I’ve had winning tournaments, whether it be a major or not, I always go back to the fact that I was in a really good place that week,” he said. “What does that mean? How do you quantify that? How do you get yourself back in that place more often?

“That’s not necessarily hitting golf balls. It’s doing other stuff and getting your mind in the right place. That’s why I’ve been quite outspoken about that because I think that’s what will help me ultimately win more majors, is being in the right place mentally.”

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