PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Rory McIlroy has returned to the place of one of his biggest triumphs as well as perhaps his biggest failure as a professional golfer.
Two years ago, McIlroy won the Honda Classic to rise to No. 1 in the world for the first time. A year ago, he walked off the PGA National course after just 27 holes, quitting mid-round because he was dealing with a shaky golf game and a fragile psyche.
"You should never walk off the golf course, no matter how bad things are,'' McIlroy said Wednesday after the Honda Classic pro-am. "It was just one of those days, I just felt like I couldn't cope with anything more, especially not the way I was heading; I was going to shoot 90, the last thing I needed.''
McIroy was more in line for a score in the low 80s, but the point is he had difficulty adapting to his new fame and fortune. He had signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike, switched all 14 clubs in his bag and was about to endure legal issues with his management team.
All of that coupled with the expectations heaped on a 23-year-old who won five times the previous year and was a solid No. 1 in the world became too much.
The excuse given at the time -- that his wisdom teeth were giving him problems -- has barely been mentioned since.
"There was a lot of things going on at that time,'' McIlroy said. "My game wasn't where I wanted it to be. My mental state wasn't quite where I needed it to be. There were a few things occupying my thoughts that probably didn't need to be and shouldn't have been, but it was just a very difficult time.''
McIlroy has slipped to eighth in the world but feels better about his game after winning in Australia at the end of 2013 and contending at European Tour events this year.
Last week he lost in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
"It's so much different this year,'' he said. "I'm much more comfortable. I'm in a better place, and I feel like my game is in a good place, and everything else can sort of fall in line with that.''