RORY McILROY says winning his third Wells Fargo Championship was an even bigger pain in the neck than the 18-month victory drought leading up to it.
That is because he suffered a neck injury the day before the tournament began.
It would have forced him to pull out if he had not been handed a late tee-time in the opening round.
McIlroy’s afternoon start at Quail Hollow allowed him to ice the injury and be treated by PGA Tour physios.
And even though the problem continued to bother him — especially during his one-over-par first-round 72 — it gradually eased, and scores of 66-68-68 saw him finish ten under par for a one-stroke triumph over Abraham Ancer.
It was the perfect time to return to form — and the four-time Major champion is buzzing ahead of next week’s USPGA Championship at nearby Kiawah Island, where he won the same event by eight shots in 2012.
McIlroy, 32, said: “This place has been good to me and now I’m looking forward to playing another course where I’ve had success in the past.
“This victory is very important going into Kiawah.This is obviously a huge confidence boost going in there knowing that my game is closer to its best than it has been.
“I’ll still poke holes in everything that I did this past week.
“It’s far from perfect but this win is validation that I’m on the right track. I came in here with zero form but I got myself into contention and played great when the pressure was on.”
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A final-hole bogey, after finding a hazard off the tee, was enough to get the job done for his Quail Hollow hat-trick.
And the Northern Irish star said: “Ever since I first set eyes on this golf course, I’ve loved it — and that love’s been reciprocated.
“But on Wednesday I didn’t even think I was going to tee off.
“If I’d had a morning tee-time, I probably would have pulled out because I hurt my neck and couldn’t make a back-swing.
“I’d done a really good practice session. I hit a three iron, flushed it, and turned back to talk to Harry, my caddie.
“As I turned, the left side of my neck completely locked up. I couldn’t move it. It was really, really strange.
“I iced it all of Wednesday afternoon, Wednesday night. I woke up Thursday, 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.
“But I had enough time to get treatment Thursday morning, get it loosened up.
“Everything just aligned. I got enough treatment so I could play and then progressively got a little bit better as the week went on. It’s just amazing how these little things all add up.
“And yeah, it was so cool to be able to win again — and see some of the hard work that I’ve put in over the past couple of months finally start to pay off.”