Rory McIlroy, already a celebrated young Irishman on the European Tour, manufactured one of the greatest performances in tournament history to become the eighth champion of the Wells Fargo Championship. His final-round 62 included six consecutive threes on his scorecard over the final six holes as he shattered the course record by two strokes and won by four shots over Masters Champion Phil Mickelson.
The 20-year-old, two days before his birthday, became the youngest winner on Tour since Tiger Woods in 1996 to capture a championship. He also became the third straight player in his 20s to win the Wells Fargo Championship and the youngest winner in tournament history.
"To win this tournament as my first is something quite special," said McIlroy. "I received so much support all day and this crowd is quite special. It feels quite Augusta-like here. It's such a great tournament."
McIlroy made the weekend special at Quail Hollow Club. He needed an eagle on the par-five 7th (his 16th hole of the day) to make the 36-hole cut on the number with a one-over-par total. His six-foot eagle putt gave him a chance on the weekend. He was nine strokes behind the leader.
The first two rounds created several storylines.
Tiger Woods was making his second start of the season and after opening with a 74, he struggled Friday to a 79 for his worst-ever 36-hole score and only the sixth missed cut as a pro.
On the flip-side, there was Billy Mayfair - a past multiple champion on the TOUR who had to qualify Monday afternoon to get into the field because he is not exempt this year for the first time since 1988. He earned a spot in the field with birdies on the final three holes and did not stop there.
By the weekend, Mayfair was the 36-hole leader at 8-under-par and heading into Sunday he had a two-stroke lead. Lurking behind him, however, were three major championship winners - Davis Love, III, Angel Cabrera and Phil Mickelson.
McIlroy, meanwhile, made a decent Saturday move himself. A six-under 66 moved him into a tie for seventh and only four strokes behind Mayfair.
Then the fireworks began.
On Sunday, McIlroy birdied the final three holes on the front-nine to post a 32 and followed with birdie at No.11 to tie Cabrera for the lead at 10-under-par. He sank an 8-foot birdie putt at 14 after nearly driving the hole. At 15, he hit a 5-iron from 207 yards to four feet for an eagle on the 566-yard, par-5 and the roars were just beginning. From a fairway bunker on the 16th, his 7-iron shot from 170 yards rolled to within five feet and he made the putt to move to 14-under-par.
On the par-three 17th, McIlroy, after nearly holing out a long putt from the other side of the green, tapped in for his fifth consecutive three and headed to the 18th hole with tremendous fan support and the look of a champion. But he was not finished. After hitting his second shot safely on the final green, McIlroy made an improbable 43-foot birdie putt that sent the Quail Hollow faithful into a frenzy.
Meanwhile, Mayfair and Love were struggling and would eventually each shoot 76 and Cabrera struggled to make putts. Mickelson could not mount a strong enough charge, though he did finish second.
"He was in a total zone," said 2008 champion Anthony Kim, who was McIlroy's playing partner on Sunday.