Two-time Major winner Rory McIlroy feels he is ready to return to his best form at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after a week off spent rediscovering his love of the game with friends in Northern Ireland.
The 24 year old missed the cut at The Open Championship at Muirfield a fortnight ago and is still searching for his first win of 2013, but Firestone Country Club has been a happy hunting ground in the past, yielding top ten finishes in each of the past three seasons.
Last year McIlroy finished tied fifth here, the third WGC event of the season, before romping to victory in the USA PGA Championship the following week, and he is keen to ignite a similarly successful run of form this time around.
“I played with some friends, and it's nice to go out and play for the sake of playing,” the World Number Three said of his visit to his home town. “To just go out and play and enjoy and play some courses that I played growing up.
“It makes you realise why you play the game. It makes you realise why you started, because you love the game. And when you were younger, you'd do anything you could to get out on the golf course. It's great just to go out and play with friends that you've grown up with. It brings you back.”
Of the testing 7,400-yard, par 70 South Course at Firestone, where he will be playing alongside American Brandt Snedeker for the first two rounds, McIlroy said: “It's a golf course I feel I can do well on.
“I feel like if something similar could happen like it did last year - I get a good finish or get into contention - obviously that would set me up for the last Major of the season and going on from there.
“I’ve done the exact same thing as I did last year. I flew in on Monday and practised Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I got some really good time with Dave Stockton over the last couple of days, which is what I did last year. So the preparation has actually been pretty similar, apart from the fact that I feel like my game is in better shape now than it was last year.
“Last year I was really searching for answers, and I've just come to the conclusion that I just need to go out there and play. I was focusing too much on mechanics and technique, and I just needed to go out there and see the shots and play them, and obviously that seemed to work pretty well.”
When asked how he would summarise the last year of his career, McIlroy gave a typically honest appraisal.
“Up and down,” he said. “I've had some great weeks and some great wins, and I've had some very average weeks as well. But it's like everything - you're going to have ups and downs.
“My highs have been incredibly high and my lows have been pretty low. It's just about trying to stable everything out and try to make it a little more on an even keel.”