LYTHAM ST ANNES, England - Now that the madness and commotion of 2011 has subsided, world number two Rory McIlroy believes he is better equipped for a tilt at his maiden British Open title.
Twelve months ago, in the absence of the injured Tiger Woods, the young Northern Irishman was the main attraction for the third major of the season at Sandwich.
McIlroy had just won the U.S. Open by a record eight-shot margin and he was surrounded by fans and media wherever he went. Unfortunately his display failed to live up to expectations and he was never in the running to lift the coveted Claret Jug.
"This year's been great," he told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the 141st edition of the championship. "It's been lovely just going about my business.
"There's definitely not the madness that was going on last year. I've tried to keep it as low-key as possible, just go about my business, and I felt I've done that pretty well.
"People still come up and want photos and stuff but the commotion is definitely not as bad this time."
McIlroy finished tied 25th at Sandwich and said he simply did not play well enough to feature on the leaderboard.
"The hype and everything was so big last year that maybe it had a little bit to do with it," said the 23-year-old.
"Also I think that taking three weeks off before last year's tournament was something to do with it. I just felt like I had to get everything out of the way because obviously there were so many requests coming in and so many things to do."
McIlroy hinted that he regretted saying immediately after his final round at a rainy, windswept Sandwich that it was not necessary to adapt to the conditions because the players did not have to confront that sort of weather too often during the year.
"Those comments were pure frustration," he said. "Having really high expectations going into it, coming off my first major win, I really wanted to play well, get into contention.
"I blamed the weather, blamed the draw, blamed my luck, everything. (Ultimately) I didn't play well enough and didn't handle the conditions the best I could have."
McIlroy said he had learned from the experience and his joint 10th finish on the Royal Portrush links at the Irish Open two and a half weeks ago proved he could perform in inclement weather.
"To some degree in Portrush I felt like I played well in the bad conditions," he said. "That's something I'm trying to do more of.
"If it's like that again this week you're just going to have to knuckle down, focus and keep fighting, stay tough and try and shoot a score." (Editing by Ed Osmond)