The Punter

The Punter's De-brief: Are the stars aligning for Rory in time for US PGA Championship?

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy with the Wells Fargo Championship trophy

Rory McIlroy has won the Wells Fargo Championship for the fourth time and Chris Gotterup has won his first PGA Tour event. Steve Rawlings looks back on their victories and forward to next week's US PGA Championship...


Pre-event 15.014/1 chance, Xander Schauffele lead the Wells Fargo Championship through rounds one, two and three and he was matched at a low of just 1.351/3 before a huge turning point on the eighth green in round four.

Rory McIlroy, who had been trailing Schauffele by a stroke with a round to go, was trailing by two as the pair played the short par four eighth and it looked like Schauffele might go three clear after their approaches.

Having just eagled the par five seventh, Schauffele gave himself 10 feet for birdie at eight but after Rory had made his birdie from just under 12 feet, Schauffele missed his putt for a three and the momentum switched entirely.

The birdie at eight kicked off an incredible run of four birdies and two eagles in the space of just eight holes and by the time they reached the 18th tee Rory had eased seven strokes clear!

An overly aggressive approach shot from the rough with a nine-iron led to a double-bogey six at the last, but it made absolutely no difference to the result. Rory beat Schauffele by five instead of seven and he finished eight clear of Byeong Hun An in third instead of 10.

It was an emphatic victory and his fourth at Quail Hollow - a venue he clearly loves.

Rory will be hoping to be in this sort of form this time next year when the US PGA Championship is staged at the venue. He will hope to be teeing it up as the defending champion.

We move on to Valhalla now, the scene of Rory's last major success, and he arrives in Kentucky in the sort of form he did 10 years ago.

Back then the US PGA Championship was the final major of the season and Rory rocked up at Valhalla in August, having won the Open Championship at Hoylake in July and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone the week before.

He tees it up on Thursday having won here for the fourth time, two weeks after winning the Zurich Classic alongside Shane Lowry. It's his participation in that event that Rory attributed his upturn in fortunes to when interviewed after yesterday's win.

He said: "I really got some confidence from New Orleans, winning with Shane, and then coming into this week, at a golf course that I'm comfortable at, my golf swing feels a lot more comfortable than it has done, so, going to a venue next week where I've won, it feels like the stars are aligning a little bit."

Rory has shortened up from the 11/112.00 he was trading at last week to around 9.617/2 to win the US PGA Championship. He can't be described as a great price given he hasn't won a major in almost 10 years and that was the price I took about him winning at Quail Hollow, but I'm happy to leave a few chips on the table.

Having backed him before the off last week, and at the Zurich when he won with Lowry, I'd feel aggrieved if I let him go unbacked and he won again at Valhalla.


Sorry Schauffele is one to swerve

There wasn't an awful lot Xander could have done about Rory's relentless run around the turn and on the back-nine, but this was the second year in-a-row that he'd traded at odds-on at Quail Hollow and come up short.

He just doesn't convince in contention and, given he led by two with just 11 holes to play, it was yet another sorry Sunday for Schauffele.

Although Rory makes it look simple at times, Quail Hollow is a tough track. But even so, to shoot one-under on Saturday and level par on Sunday was a disappointing effort after for Schauffele after he got to -11 through two rounds to lead by four going into the weekend.


Gotterup the last man in at Valhalla

Away from the main attraction, pre-event 70.069/1 chance Chris Gotterup hacked up in the inaugural edition of the Myrtle Beach Classic.

The big hitting 24-year-old had led by four with a round to go and after a nervy start to round four, which saw him bogey the first two holes, the Marylander pulled away from the field with birdies at three and five and an eagle at the fourth.

He never really looked like getting beat after that and went on to win what was his first PGA Tour title by six.

Chris Gotterup wins Myrtle Beach Classic.jpg

Anyone with a fairly decent memory may recall that Gotterup had caught everyone's attention at the John Deere Classic two years ago when finishing fourth behind J.T Poston.

He went off favourite the following week at the Barbasol Championship but missed the cut and he fell off most people's radars after that.

Sunday's win gets him into The Sentry and the Players Championship next year and it also gets him into the field at this week's US PGA Championship.

Contending there after his maiden win might be a bit much to ask for but he's clearly very talented and it might not be too long before he secures victory number two.


Now read my US PGA Championship preview


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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