LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Golf stories about Rory McIlroy are a lot more flattering than those a year ago. And if he reads too much into them, they can be a lot more dangerous.
McIlroy went wire to wire at Hoylake to win the British Open. Then, he overpowered Firestone on the weekend to win his first World Golf Championship tournament. Now he is the overwhelming favorite at the PGA Championship. He is looked on in some corners as a sure thing, a label once reserved only for Tiger Woods.
Boy Wonder is not so sure about that.
"Sometimes I feel that people are too quick to jump to conclusions," McIlroy said Tuesday before heading out for his first look at Valhalla. "I've had a great run of golf, and I've played well over the past few months.
"Look, I said at the start of the year that golf was looking for someone to put their hand up and sort of become one of the dominant players in the game. I felt like I had the ability to do that. And it's just nice to be able to win a few tournaments and get back to where I feel I should be."
He is No. 1 in the world again. He has three wins in his last seven starts. And with three legs of the career Grand Slam -- only Woods and Jack Nicklaus were younger than the 25-year-old McIlroy when they achieved that -- there was even talk about the start of a new era.
McIlroy wasn't buying.
"I'm just really happy with where my golf game is at the minute, and I just want to try and continue that for as long as possible," he said. "And people can say what they want to say. That's fine. But I can't read too much into it. ... Because if you read everything that was being written, I'd turn up at the first tee on Thursday thinking I'd already won the tournament."
McIlroy appears to be in full flight, just as he was in his record victory at Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open, and just as he was when he won the PGA Championship by a record eight shots in 2012, and then added three more wins the rest of the year against strong fields.
McIlroy said his work in gym has added about 7 pounds of muscle in recent months, and he is now the heaviest he has been. He also has shortened his swing, which would make him more accurate off the tee.
"He's such a great driver of the golf ball," Phil Mickelson said as he looked back on McIlroy's win at Firestone. "Even though the golf course was fairly tight and hitting fairways is important, he kept hitting drivers and he kept putting the ball in play and he kept playing the course aggressively and making birdies. And he plays to his strength. He's just a very good talent.
"We've been waiting a year, year and a half now for it to turn. And it's really turned for him. And he's tough to beat."
McIlroy was foundering at this time a year ago, missing the cut in three out of six tournaments, not even sniffing contention as he worked through equipment changes. The final touch was an alignment issue he solved after the Masters, and he is soaring now.
Of the 13 players to win a major and a WGC event, McIlroy and Woods are the only ones to win them in consecutive starts. In the last 20 years, Woods, Padraig Harrington and Nick Price are the only players to win the final two majors of the year.
McIlroy ended Adam Scott's 11-week run at No. 1, and his intent is to stay there.
"I think the right guy is at No. 1 at the moment," Scott said. "I hope that I could go ahead and win this week and maybe go back to No. 1. But there's no doubt Rory has played the best golf over the last few months."
McIlroy considers this his best major, and the results bear that out. In five starts, he has finished out of the top 10 only one time. That was in 2011 in Atlanta, where he played the last three rounds with an arm injury after trying to hit a shot through a tree root.
"Expectations are higher. Hype is a little higher," McIlroy said. "So it's a little bit different this year."
Site: Louisville, Kentucky
Course: Valhalla Golf Club (7,458 yards, par 71)
Purse: $10 million (winner's share: $1.8 million)
TV: TNT (Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 8-11 a.m.) and CBS (Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.)
Last year: Jason Dufner won at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York. He matched the major championship record with a second-round 63 in a two-stroke victory.
Last week: Rory McIlroy regained the top spot in the world, following his British Open victory with a comeback win in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio. Geoff Ogilvy won the Barracuda Championship in Reno for his victory PGA Tour victory since 2010.
Notes: Tiger Woods, the 2000 winner at Valhalla, says he'll play in his second major of the season. He withdrew from the Bridgestone in the final round because of a back injury. The tournament was his third since returning from surgery to alleviate pain from a pinched nerve. Also the 1999, 2006 and 2007 PGA winner, he won the last of his 14 major titles in the 2008 U.S. Open. The tournament ends the points race for the nine automatic spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. McIlroy won by eight shots in 2012 at Kiawah Island (South Carolina) to break the tournament record for margin of victory. ... If tied after 72 holes, the tournament will be decided in a three-hole, stroke-play playoff. If still tied, it will go to sudden death. The United States won the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla. The PGA of America owns Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla. The 2015 tournament will be played at Whistling Straits (Wisconsin). The Wyndham Championship is next week at Sedgefield in Greensboro, North Carolina.