Rory McIlroy believes having lower expectations paid dividends as he battled to a top-10 finish in the US PGA Championship.
The 34-year-old was feeling under the weather and struggling with his long game, but followed an opening 71 with three straight 69s to finish two under par, seven behind winner Brooks Koepka.
“I’ll look back on this week as proud of how I hung in there, and I guess my attitude and sticking to it, not having my best stuff,” said the Northern Irishman.
McIlroy had cut a subdued figure before play got under way at Oak Hill, a legacy of his dispiriting missed cut in the Masters as his latest attempt to complete a career Grand Slam ended prematurely.
“I guess I just came in here trying to play a golf tournament, honestly not thinking about getting myself in contention. I honestly didn’t feel like I had a chance of winning this week,” he said.
“I feel sort of close but also so far away at the same time. It’s hard to explain. I feel like sometimes it was the worst I could have played, but then at the same time it’s like the best I could have done.
“It’s weird. It just doesn’t feel quite where it needs to be and I just need to go back home and work on some stuff. I guess just try to figure it out.”
Asked if having lower expectations had worked in his favour, McIlroy added: “Yeah, 100%.
“I was more accepting of things out there and I think it’s hard. The previous major championship at Augusta, all I think about is winning, winning, winning, to try to win that Green Jacket.
“I then don’t really think about just playing a tournament and the cadence that goes along with getting into rounds and whatever.
“I go to the second tee on Friday afternoon and I see I’m already 10 back of Brooks or whatever. So then I’m thinking, ‘oh, geez, I have no chance of winning’, and things sort of crumble.
“It’s just like being a bit mentally fragile because you’re so focused on the one thing you’re trying to do when, in essence, you just need to play a golf tournament and see where the chips fall at the end of the week.”