POTOMAC — Most amateur golfers are used to having a ‘breakfast ball,’ or second chance to start their round. Rory McIlroy doesn’t need one of those, but the world’s No. 7-ranked golfer did indulge instead in a breakfast cupcake Wednesday morning.
The Northern Irishman whipped a bite of white frosting off the top of the red velvet confection while receiving a ‘Happy Birthday’ serenade on the foggy first tee of the Wells Fargo Championship’s Pro-Am.
The newly-minted 33-year-old is hoping victory — and a defense of his tournament title — can taste just as sweet on Sunday.
McIlroy is the highest-ranked golfer and the favorite among the 156-player field this week at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. He even admitted that the DC region is home to “the best week of golf I’ve ever played in my life. “
That week, however, was more than a decade ago. And it was next door at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club.
“I was driving in here (Tuesday) morning and going along [River Road] and I looked left and I thought, ‘That looks like Congressional. Oh, that is Congressional,’” McIlroy said, after his nine-hole round. “So good vibes obviously from this area.”
He’ll visit the site of his 2011 US Open win this week, joking that “it’s only right I go over and at least show my face” after becoming an honorary member following a First Tee event at the club. But for success to come once again for McIlroy in the nation’s capital, it’s going to be on a course that’s foreign to him.
“Hadn’t really heard much about the golf course, but from what I’ve seen the last couple days, I really like it,” McIlroy said of TPC Potomac. “It’s just a solid golf course. You can’t really fake it around here. You’ve got to hit the ball really well…green complexes are tricky, pretty small targets.”
As a one-year stand-in for this tournament’s normal home at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club, McIlroy offered praise, both for the course and golf fandom across the area. He stayed after his pro-Am round for about five to 10 minutes to sign autographs and chat with fans outside the clubhouse and is an advocate for the region to have an annual stop on the Tour once again.
“I’d love to have a PGA Tour event in this area every year,” McIlroy said. “I love playing golf in the Northeast. It’s some of my favorite style of golf courses, and if we were to come back here more regularly , I think everyone would like that.”
Something the three-time Wells Fargo winner would like when he tees off from the 10th hole at 7:34 am Thursday is to back up his runner-up performance at last month’s Masters, where he posted a final-round 64 to finish three strokes behind world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.
“I got a lot of confidence from that round on Sunday,” McIlroy said of his career-best Augusta performance. “I did a lot of great things. It’s something to definitely build on over the next few weeks.”
He played his pro-am round with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) golfers and First Tee alumni in cool, soupy morning conditions more reminiscent of his Northern Ireland home, which are likely to persist into the weekend. Though McIlroy gained a reputation early in his career as someone who thrived in wet conditions, he’d like to dispel that notion as he chases his 21st PGA Tour victory.
“I think I’ve won 30 times around the world. Not all those weeks were wet and rainy,” McIlroy said with a smile. “I think I’m pretty good in most conditions.”