The Northern Irishman sealed a record-breaking eight-shot victory in 2012 and two years later lifted the Wanamaker Trophy again for his fourth Major Championship triumph.
Since that win at Valhalla, McIlroy has remained a constant figure at the top of the world game but a fifth Major and the career grand slam – for which he needs a Masters victory to complete – has eluded him, with a missed cut marking his last visit to Augusta National a month ago.
Despite that disappointment, the World Number Three appeared in relaxed mood as he faced the media at Oak Hill Country Club, and he was confident he could challenge for a fifth victory since he last teed it up at this event.
“It wasn’t really the performance of Augusta that’s hard to get over, it’s the mental aspect and the deflation of it and sort of trying to get your mind in the right place to start going forward again, I guess,” he said.
“I think I’m close. I think I’ve made some good strides even from Quail Hollow a couple of weeks ago. I’m seeing some better things, better start lines, certainly just some better golf shots.
“A little more sure of where I’m going to start the ball and sort of a more consistent shot pattern. But we’ll get out there and see and play.
“I expect to go out there and if I can execute the way that I feel like I can, then I still believe that I’m one of the best players in the world and I can produce good golf to have a chance of winning this week.
“I have less expectations. I’m just trying to be in a good spot with taking what comes and not thinking about things too much, not getting ahead of myself.
“Just trying to go out there, play a good first hole of the tournament and then once I do that, try to play a good second hole and just sort of go from there.
“If I don’t win another tournament for the rest of my career, I still see my career as a success. I still stand up here as a successful person in my eyes. That’s what defines that.”
Rochester in up-state New York has become familiar to McIlroy in recent years as it is the home town of his wife Erica.
The Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex leader is enjoying having some extra support as he plays his practice rounds this week but he does not believe his local connections bring any extra pressure.
“I certainly know this area probably a little better than most of the people in the field,” he said. “Hopefully that support will help me and give me some momentum as the week goes on.
“It’s nice to come back to somewhere that you’re familiar with, that you’ve got obviously really good memories and sort of good karma.
“The connection here is family and extended family and for the most part that’s the extent of it.”