Twelve months ago, Rory McIlroy went into the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island on a high, having ended a run of poor play with an encouraging tie for fifth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational the previous week.
The mop-haired Northern Irishman took full advantage, clinching the season's final major by a record-breaking eight shots before going on to win twice more on the 2012 PGA Tour as he stormed back to the top of the world rankings.
This year, however, is very different, and McIlroy will launch his PGA Championship title defense at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. on Thursday still searching for confidence and consistency in his driving.
His bid last week to replicate that 2012 turnaround in his game at the Bridgestone Invitational was not as successful: he carded rounds of even-par 70, 71, 69 and 72 to finish tied for 27th at Firestone Country Club in a field of 73.
“I definitely had a better week last year, coming out of Firestone with a lot of confidence going into the PGA, feeling good about my game,” McIlroy told reporters. “I keep saying my game doesn't feel too far away. It's obviously not where I want it to be, but it's not a million miles away.”
Though McIlroy signed off at Firestone with his worst score of the week, he was somewhat encouraged by the improvement in his ball striking.
“It was OK,” the 24-year-old said. “I thought I struck the ball much better [in the final round] than I did the previous three days, which was great, which was a good sign. … [On Sunday] I played nicely, just a couple of bad holes on the back nine. It's definitely going in the right direction.”
WHEN: Thurday to Sunday
WHERE: Oak Hill Country Club, Pittsford, N.Y.
COURSE: 7,163 yards, par 70
TV: Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (TNT); Saturday, 8 to 11 a.m. (TNT); 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 8 to 11 a.m., (TNT); 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (CBS)