'B' grade McIlroy has room for improvement at Kiawah

Rory McIlroy is hoping he can produce his very best golf at the season's final major, the PGA Championship, starting here Thursday, after giving himself a 'B' for his year so far.

The Northern Irishman, who arrives at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island ranked third in the world, is one of 16 different players to win the last 16 majors thanks to his stunning victory in the US Open at Congressional in 2011.

He looked ready to dominate the sport after that win, but has had something of an underwhelming season thus far.

After finishing 40th at The Masters in April, McIlroy made an early exit from the US Open during a miserable run of four missed cuts in five starts.

Then, after a promising first day, he fell away to 60th in The Open at Royal Lytham.

But there were signs that he is approaching his best form again at last weekend's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, when a consistent performance over the four days saw him finish tied for fifth, five shots behind winner Keegan Bradley, the defending PGA champion.

That has allowed the 23-year-old to view his year -- which started with a climb to the top of the world rankings -- from a more positive perspective.

"It's been good. 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," he said, in reference to his Honda Classic victory in March.

"And then the second half of the season has been -- it's still been pretty good. It's been a little bit more of a struggle.

"But you know, I feel like I'm playing pretty well, so, I mean, if I had to give my season a grade to this point, I'd probably give it a B."

McIlroy, who knows that a top-two finish could see him dethrone Luke Donald at the top of the rankings again, will play with American duo Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk in Thursday's opening round at the former Ryder Cup venue.

And he hinted that he may just have rediscovered the right sensations in the run-up to the tournament.

"I started to feel quite comfortable last week, started to hit the ball the way I usually do, hitting a few fairways and hitting a lot of greens," he said, putting his Open frustration firmly behind him.

"My greens in regulation was down for a couple of months there, so to see that come back up was nice.

"Ball striking has got better, and from there, you're giving yourself a lot of chances for birdies, which is good.

"It would be great just to give myself a chance this week, get into contention and just feel that buzz again of getting into contention in a major and remembering how it feels."

You can get odds of around 20-1 on McIlroy, who is second favourite behind Tiger Woods to win the 94th PGA Championship.

But he knows that the conditions will be testing, with the hot, humid South Carolina weather set to impact on what is a very long course, and where the long grass found in these parts of the United States prevents the ball from running along the ground.

"The ball, it doesn't run very far when it pitches. Even if you get the greens firm here, the ball is still going to grab on this grass," he admitted.

"Even though this is a very long golf course, mentally you've really got to be on the top of your game. And if the wind and the rain comes, it's obviously going to be more about how you mentally approach that than physical, yeah."


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