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Rory McIlroy ends 18-month title drought on PGA

Rory McIlroy throws his ball to the crowd at the 18th hole after winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. (AP photo)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rory McIlroy found his comfort zone at Quail Hollow and left with a trophy he badly needed.

McIlroy closed with a 3-under 68 and made it tough on himself at the end Sunday, driving into the hazard left of the 18th fairway and needing two putts from 45 feet for a one-shot victory in the Wells Fargo Championship.

What mattered was ending 18 months since his last victory in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, along with finding a strong semblance of his game as he prepares to return to Kiawah Island for the PGA Championship.

“It’s never easy,” McIlroy said. “It felt like a long time.”

It showed. McIlroy seemed to be on the verge of choking up at winning on Mother’s Day, thinking of his mother, Rosie, and wife Erica. She was at Quail Hollow with their daughter, Poppy, and McIlroy doted on them before signing his card.

Rory McIlroy kisses the trophy after winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. (AP photo)

McIlroy seized control with two splendid bunker shots, getting up-and-down for birdie on the reachable par-4 14th and the par-5 15th, and then holding on at the end.

Abraham Ancer ran off three straight birdies and nearly closed with a fourth one, posting a 66 for a runner-up finish.

McIlroy finished at 10-under 274 for his 19th career victory, and his third at Quail Hollow.

“This is one of my favorite places in the world,” said McIlroy, who picked up his first PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow in 2010. “To break the drought and win here, it’s awesome.”

It was a tough finish for Keith Mitchell, who started the final round with a two-shot lead and quickly stretched it to three shots with a 6-iron out of a fairway bunker into a stiffening breeze to 12 feet for birdie.

But his short game let him down all day, leading to bogeys on the fifth and sixth holes that cost him the lead, and on the 14th hole and 15th holes when he had to settle for pars after being in position for birdies.

Mitchell, whose only victory was the Honda Classic just over two years ago, needed to finish alone in second to qualify for the PGA Championship through the money list. But he dropped a shot on the 17th and closed with a 72 to tie for third with Viktor Hovland, who had a 67.

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