KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Rory McIlroy still has a major championship and a bunch of starts left before his season is complete, but during Wednesday's interview session with the assembled media at the PGA Championship, the 23-year-old was asked to assess his season and give it letter grade.
"It's been good," McIlroy said. "You know, there was a few goals I set myself early at the start of the year, which I achieved; getting to No. 1 in the world, and playing well, winning a tournament early. The second half of the season has been -- it's still been pretty good. It's been a little bit of a struggle. But you I feel like I'm playing well, so, I mean, if I had to give my season a grade to this point, I'd probably give it a B."
Early in the year it looked like McIlroy was well on his way to acing the 2012 season, after he opened with four top-5 finishes, including a runner-up at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and a win the following week at the Honda Classic that vaulted him to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.
McIlroy was cruising along, looking nearly unbeatable. Following a 2011 that included one of the most impressive wins in major championship history at the U.S. Open, the expectations coming into the year were sky-high, and through the first three months of the season, McIlroy was not only meeting but exceeding those expectations.
But something happened following the Honda victory. Whether the incredible expectations were too much to handle or he lost focus on the task at-hand, as he put it after missing his second straight earlier in the year, McIlroy went off the tracks over the next few months, missing the cut in three straight events, while never finishing higher than 40th, at the Masters, in a major.
Many started to speculate McIlroy was spending too much time jetsetting around the globe with tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki instead of working on his swing. Whatever it was, McIlroy failed to find his early season form, all but wiping out a promising start to the year.
After struggling to a T-60 finish at the British Open, McIlroy came to the realization that he needed to needed to get away from spending countless hours on the range trying to pinpoint the issue and take his game to the course.
"I sort of found out over the last couple of weeks that just standing there and hitting balls on the range isn't something that's going to be good for me," McIlroy said. "I need to get out there and play, see shot on the course. That's something I've tried to do the last few weeks."
Whatever he did certainly helped. McIlroy posted his first top-5 finish since the Wells Fargo Championship, in April, last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He was also second in the field in greens in regulation and driving distance, two stat categories that could come in handy this week at the Ocean Course.
With a confidence-building win under his belt, you'd think McIlroy would be optimistic about his chances at the Ocean Course. While he certainly has a positive outlook this week, McIlroy said he's keeping things in perspective.
"For me, I would say get in contention, give myself a chance to win on Sunday," McIlroy said, when asked what a success week would be at the PGA. "That's all I can ask for. You know, I can't sit up here and say, you know, a success would be to win or a top three of a top five. If I feel like I have a decent chance going into Sunday, that's all I can ask for."
That goal looks attainable, especially if McIlroy shows up with the swing, and mindset, he had at Firestone.