"I've reached a point now where I'm very comfortable with everything in my game and my swing," he said. "Seeing shots the way I want to see them. When I do that, I feel like the scores are just a byproduct of all the hard work and making good swings."
As for exorcising any demons, or "putting to rest any ghosts," as he was asked after, McIlroy said he didn't approach the round that way.
"It's not something I really thought about out there," he said. "I knew that I was playing well and I just wanted to try and get off to a good start. I've been able to do that the first couple of stroke-play tournaments this year where I've got off to fast starts and got myself into contention, haven't quite converted those in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but wanted to try and do the same here and it was nice to do it, regardless of what happened last year."
Given all the angst associated with the tournament, it is easy to forget that PGA National is also the place of a career highlight. Two years ago, he shot all four rounds in the 60s, held off a final-day charge by Tiger Woods, and won the tournament to go to No. 1 in the world for the first time.
It was the first of five worldwide victories in a phenomenal year that saw him capture the money title on both the PGA and European Tours while also winning his second major championship.
Another week like that will help make last year's walk-off a hazy memory.