We’re seeing a pattern here. Rory McIlroy’s 2022 script seems to be Houdiniesque – he either makes the cut on the number (or close thereto) and then makes a late, albeit failed, run up the leaderboard on the weekend. Such was the case in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, at the Masters last month and at the Wells Fargo Championship this past weekend.
The Wells Fargo is an event that McIlroy has won twice before. Importantly, it’s an event that Max Homa had previous success in. Just as McIlroy won his first PGA Tour event in the 2010 rendition, Homa had his first sip of the cup in 2019. And now Homa joins McIlroy as a two-time winner.
Because the Presidents Cup will be played at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C. this year, the event was moved to TPC Avenel in Potomac, Md. No matter for either McIlroy or Homa, both of whom shot 67 in the first round.
McIlroy began his round at the 10th tee and was 4-under-par after six holes, and looked especially dialed in, having drained birdie putts of 20 and 25 feet. Something got lost thereafter as he played the rest of the round a stroke over par.
Friday began inauspiciously as he made the turn three strokes over par, without a birdie on the front nine. He played the back nine evenly and his 73 allowed him no cushion as he made the cut on the number. Homa, meanwhile, shot 66.
Saturday was wet and windy, and an interesting contrast to that which preceded it as McIlroy toured the front nine with neither a birdie nor bogey. Matters took a perilous turn with bogeys at 10 and 11 but those seemed to stir him. Birdie at four of the final seven holes realized a round of 68, which left him in with a chance as the field was backing up due to the difficult playing circumstances.
McIlroy drew to within two strokes of the leaders, Homa and Keegan Bradley, after getting his third birdie of the Sunday round at the 10th green. But he gave that right back at 11 and was unable to muster a challenge thereafter. His second consecutive 68 entitled him to fifth place, two strokes off the trio that shared runner-up honors, and four behind Homa.
“It was a solid day, played well, had my chances, played the last eight holes in one over,” McIlroy said. “Some of those pin positions on the back nine were tricky, hard to get close to. But it’s something to build on going into [next week’s] PGA.”
McIlroy will spend this week at home before departing for Tulsa’s Southern Hills, which will host its first PGA Championship since 2007, which was played about a month before he turned pro. A two-time PGA winner, McIlroy is confident heading into the year’s second major, although he’d appreciate a break from the elements.
“I’m playing really good,” McIlroy said. “No complaints with the game, everything feels really solid. All year, it’s been rain or wind or a combination of both. Tulsa might be hot but I’m looking forward to not getting the umbrella out for a while.”
Seamus Power missed the cut by two strokes after rounds of 70 and 72. Friday’s round began disastrously. Starting at the par-5 10th tee, he incurred a penalty stroke after his approach shot veered out of bounds. That and a three-putt odyssey on the green resulted in 8, which more than accounted for the deficit that led to his exit.
Power will try to make amends in this week’s Byron Nelson Classic in Texas. He and John Murphy, in on a sponsor’s exemption, will comprise the Irish threat.
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS
Padraig Harrington rallied to grab a share of second place in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Ga. Rounds of 69 and 73 appeared to leave him just a bit too much work to do to get into contention on Sunday.
Nine birdies on Sunday proved that assumption wrong, although the bogey he took at the ninth hole stood in his way of matching Steve Flesch’s 54-hole score of 11-under-par 205. Harrington’s closing 64 was low round of the day, matched by two others.
One of those others was Darren Clarke, who rose phoenix-like from the ashes of an opening 79. Three double bogeys and four garden-variety bogeys overwhelmed the three birdies on his card.
With all the pressure of winning off his shoulders, Clarke played the final two rounds 11 strokes under par, shooting 69 and 64. The latter was bogey free, highlighted by an eagle-3 at the fourth hole. He tied for 14th place, seven strokes behind Flesch.
Harrington now has majors coming up in both this week’s Regions Tradition among the senior set and next week’s PGA, in which he tied for fourth place last year. Clarke will also tee up in the Regions Tradition.
LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR
Olivia Mehaffey maintained her fine recent form as this circuit returned to Europe from Australia. She finished ninth in the Madrid Ladies Open, 11 strokes behind runaway winner Ana Pelaez.
Mehaffey shot 69, 71 and 69 before closing with 67. That final round was helped by birdies at four of the first five holes after making the turn.