The last time Rory McIlroy played the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island it was a no-contest, no-doubt-about-it, no-one-is-close victory. He won by eight shots.

This year as the PGA Championship returns to the Pete and Alice Dye layout – but in May instead of August – McIlroy is a little older and a little wiser. But after a victory at his last PGA Tour event two weeks ago, he’s
just as motivated to win.

“I think a lot has changed for the better,” said McIlroy about the time that’s gone by since 2012. “I'm standing up here probably more confident in myself, happier with where I am in my life, and yeah, just sort of enjoying everything, enjoying life, enjoying everything a bit more.”

McIlroy’s game has been under a microscope since he was a youngster, and perhaps no more than over the last two years. Despite winning four
times on the PGA Tour in 2019 he was winless for nearly two years until
triumphing at the Wells Fargo Championship. He won by one to break the drought – but don’t think McIlroy had some grandiose champagne-soaked

The new dad played things pretty subdued.

“I got on the plane at about 7:45 on Sunday night, got home probably around 10:00, put (daughter) Poppy to bed, and I took a shower and went to be myself,” said McIlroy with a smile.

Indeed, McIlroy and wife Erica welcomed Poppy into the world last August and that was just one thing that’s been different since the last time the two-time PGA Championship winner was traversing the Ocean Courses’ fairways.

“A lot has changed,” said McIlroy. “I'm in a completely different place in my life.”

The 32-year-old has been stuck on four major victories (he’s also won The
Open Championship and the U.S. Open to go along with his two Wanamaker Trophies) since his 2014 PGA Championship win. Interestingly enough, however, many of his contemporaries have yet to notch the same major championships total as McIlroy.

Take Brooks Koepka (who McIlroy will play with on Thursday and Friday) out of the equation, and all the golfers ranked No.1 in the world over the
last four years (Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, and Justin
Thomas) combined have won the same number of majors as McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman is out there chasing ghosts. Legends of the game like Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson. Rose, Rahm, Johnson, and
Thomas are chasing, well, McIlroy.

That was evident Tuesday, as McIlroy was wrapping up his press conference at the Ocean Course and standing at the back of the room was Thomas.

“A lot of guys have won one major but it’s a big hurdle to get to the second,” said McIlroy with a big laugh. “It was good to get that monkey off my back, especially here, playing so well.”

“It was a big deal,” he continued, speaking specifically about his 2012 PGA Championship win. “I definitely didn't want to be stuck on one for a longtime, so happy to get that second.”

Thomas, meanwhile, didn’t take the bait.

“I can't really say too much, other than it's great to see him win. I know it's been a really long time for him, so I'm glad to see him win,” said Thomas, the 2017 PGA Championship winner. “But at the same time, I really don't
want to egg him on because usually when he wins, he likes to reel some off, and with a lot of big tournaments coming up I don't really want to poke the bear.”

So McIlroy returns to Kiawah Island off a victory at Quail Hollow – where
Thomas won his PGA Championship – but he said he’s still looking for a
little spark. He called the win “just a step in the process” but was happy to get adjusted to playing in front of crowds again, as he has since he was 16
years old.

“You want to play in front of people, and you want to feel that atmosphere,” said McIlroy. “I want to be in those positions more often than I have been, and that'll just mean keeping the head down and putting in the work.”

McIlroy will be back to work at the PGA Championship soon enough.

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