CHARLIE MULQUEEN: Marquee names back at Quail Hollow

Golf’s marquee names return from their post Masters break for the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, North Carolina.

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and several other leading players will feature as they finalise their preparations for the Tournament Players Championship at Sawgrass a week later.

The presence of Woods and McIlroy will capture the imagination of a public that can’t get enough of these two fascinating sportsmen.

McIlroy has again forfeited his status as world number one to Luke Donald largely because of his recent limited appearances.

Nevertheless, Donald’s absence means that McIlroy (who turns 23 on Friday) will again top the rankings should he add this title to the Honda Classic he captured in February.

And, of course, he carries with him the happiest of memories of 2010 when he stunned the golfing world by shooting a superb final round of ten under 62 highlighted by an incredible 43-foot putt on the 18th that clinched victory by three strokes.

Few were more impressed than Phil Mickelson, who had won the Masters only a couple of weeks previously. Mickleson said: “He’s a young player but he’s got the game of a veteran.

“This guy has got all the shots. I’ve played with him over the last year or two a decent amount of times and it’s tough to walk away feeling disappointed, not only as a player but as a person.”

McIlroy insisted he would use the experience of victory in his quest for major titles and a little more than a year later, he was crowned US Open champion!

Ironically he had considered skipping Quail Hollow after missing the cut at the Masters a month earlier.

Luckily, he had second thoughts, went home and played Royal County Down and Royal Portrush.

There he learned a valuable lesson and admitted: ‘‘If I can shoot 67 around here in a pretty strong wind, then I can shoot it anywhere.’’

But luck was on his side in Carolina as a stunning eagle on the seventh hole (his 16th) on the Friday afternoon secured his spot at the weekend where he shot 17 under over the final 36 holes.

Woods missed out that weekend for only the sixth time in his career.

Nevertheless, he has good memories of Quail Hollow having won there in 2007.

He believes victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month and recent work with Sean Foley will stand to him entering the most important stage of the season.

Woods said: “It felt so good to win at Bay Hill, not just to win but also the way I did it.

“To go out there and earn it on Sunday under tough conditions playing against Graeme (McDowell).

“I knew it was going to be a tough match and I hit the ball well all day. I had control of my game.

“People forget — I’ve been there a number of times. I know what to do in those circumstances.

“It’s just a matter of doing it.”

The European Tour returns home this week from Asia for the Spanish Open in Seville where the Irish in the €2m event are Michael Hoey, Peter Lawrie, Shane Lowry, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Simon Thornton.


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