DORAL, Fla. – How low did Rory McIlroy's confidence sink this year?
"It was probably the lowest it's ever been," he said.
Slowly, it's being built back up.
McIlroy recorded just his second round under par of the year on Saturday, a 1-under 71 that at one point included five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine at TPC Blue Monster.
"I'm driving the ball much better," he said. "I've done a lot of work and feel a lot more comfortable out there."
A week ago McIlroy looked just the opposite.
He walked off the golf course in the middle of his second round at The Honda Classic, 7 over through eight holes at the time, saying he wasn't in a good place mentally and later added that a toothache was his reason for pulling out.
The next day he went back to work at The Bear's Club, searching for the swing that had won him two major championships by age 23 and propelled him to No. 1 in the world.
"This time last week I was standing on range at The Bear's Club grinding my ass off trying to find a swing that worked," McIlroy said. "To put it into play and actually see good results, I'm in a better place."
Things actually started slowly for McIlroy in the third round with a bogey and a double bogey in his first four holes.
A birdie on No. 6, however, sparked the Northern Irishman.
He bogeyed the par-5 10th after finding the water on his approach, but he started finding his rhythm after that with birdies on five of the next six holes, including one from 35 feet on the 14th.
McIlroy three-putted the 18th for a second day in a row, but his score at the end of the day was less important than the shots he hit to get there.
"Even the bad shots are coming off the middle of the clubface," McIlroy said. "I'm excited about my game. Coming into this week I was down about it. But after a few days I’m a lot happier going forward."
He'll also be able to devote more time to his short game, something McIlroy admitted he neglected while trying to fix his full swing problems and get adjusted to his new Nike equipment.
McIlroy also said he doesn't plan to add an event to his schedule -- he'll next play the Shell Houston Open -- despite his early-season struggles.
Given how he's hit the ball the last two days, he doesn't feel the need to.
Said McIlroy: "Putting in the word work, knowing what I'm doing is the right thing gives me confidence going into next few weeks."