- Associated Press - Thursday, May 2, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Rory McIlroy enters the next phase of his season knowing that his fortunes can change without notice.

That’s what happened last year.

McIlroy had gone five months without winning, long enough to lose his No. 1 ranking. He also went through a slump so severe that he missed the cut in four out of five tournaments, including his title defense in the U.S. Open. There was only a shred of evidence that his game was coming around when he tied for fifth at Firestone before heading to Kiawah Island for the final major of the year.

One week changed everything. McIlroy won the PGA Championship, and then won consecutive FedEx Cup playoff events and ended the year with another big win in Dubai.

Did he see it coming?

“No, not really,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship, scene of his first PGA Tour title in 2010. “I don’t think you do. Of course, you want to try to get in contention and try to win tournaments. But you get comfortable with your game over a period of time and it’s a great feeling. And I wish I had that feeling all the time.”

So maybe there’s hope for McIlroy, who turns 24 on Saturday.

He went through another wretched slump at the start of the year and only lately has shown signs of turning it around. He tied for second in the Texas Open, and at least had a decent finish at the Masters with a 69 on the last day to tie for 25th.

Quail Hollow brings back good memories.

McIlroy was headed toward a missed cut in 2010 until he made eagle on his 16th hole of the second round to make the cut on the number. He got back into contention the next day, and then closed with a 62 for the victory.

He is the top player in a field that is weak by Quail Hollow standards. No. 2 in the world, he is the only top-10 player in the field. The Wells Fargo Championship gets underway Thursday, with McIlroy teeing off in the afternoon.

McIlroy is looking for a little momentum to push him in the right direction.

“I’m happy with where my game is at,” he said. “That little spark, that little bit of momentum to maybe get on a run like I got on at the end of last year would be nice, but I’m being patient with it and just waiting for the right time.”

One reason for the shortage of big names that usually show up at Quail Hollow might be the condition of the golf course.

Quail Hollow has been a symbol of perfection for 10 years since it returned to the PGA Tour lineup, a beautifully manicured golf course where the six major champions who have won ranged from Tiger Woods to McIlroy. It is less than perfect this year. Some have even compared the greens to a rundown municipal course.

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