Rory McIlroy heads into the PGA Championship this week at a low ebb. Twelve months ago the Northern Irish golfer finished the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island on a high, elevating him back to the world number one rankings.

McIlroy is set to launch his PGA Championship title defense at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York on Thursday.

Last week he hit a closing two-over 72 at the Bridgestone Invitational.

"I definitely had a better week last year, coming out of Firestone with a lot of confidence going into the PGA, feeling good about my game," world number three McIlroy told reporters.

"I keep saying my game doesn't feel too far away. It's obviously not where I want it to be, but it's not a million miles away."

Despite a disappointing finish at the Bridgetown last week, the golfer was encouraged by the improvement in his ball striking.

"It was okay," the 24-year-old said. "I thought I struck the ball much better (in the final round) than I did the previous three days, which was great, which was a good sign.

"Obviously I didn't score very well the first day, then I didn't hit it particularly well in the middle two rounds, but actually my short game was good and was able to keep myself around par.

"(On Sunday) I played nicely, just a couple of bad holes on the back nine. It's definitely going in the right direction."

The Irishman admits the past 12 months have been "up and down" for him.

"I've let it either get me excited or get me down, where I should really just not get too high or too low about it at all," McIlroy said.

"But I have put in a lot of work for the past couple of weeks and I definitely feel things are going in the right direction.

"Once I get my long game back on track, I feel like my short game is exactly where it needs to be. If I can start hitting some fairways, hopefully I can challenge for some tournaments."