Rory McIlroy said playing without expectations following the birth of his first child had helped him rediscover some of his best form as he shot a six-under 64 in the opening round of the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta on Friday.
The Northern Irishman, who began the day in 12th at three under, got his title defence off to a flying start just five days after his daughter Poppy was born and said that he was surprised by how quickly he found his groove.
“Yeah, a little bit. You know, it just shows you golf is such a mental game and if you come in with low expectations, that’s always how I’ve played well,” McIlroy told reporters.
“Whether I don’t feel like my game is in a good place or I’m not the favourite coming into a tournament… I feel that’s when I usually play my best and I can play with a bit of freedom, and that’s what I did today.”
The world’s leading two players Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm were tied atop the leaderboard at 13-under par after the first round. McIlroy was fourth.
The 31-year-old, who previously acknowledged that he was distracted over the last few weeks, said he constantly kept thinking of his daughter during the first round.
“It’s like every three hours she’s supposed to be fed, so I’m like, okay, there’s a feeding coming up,” McIlroy added.
“But it’s natural… that in between shots you think about other things, and obviously my mind has been very much on what’s going on at home.
“But it’s nice to have this little four or five hours to myself, concentrate on my game and get into this stuff. I played well today… as good as I have in a long time, and that was very encouraging.”