After a rather tumultuous 10-day period following his PGA win at Valhalla on Aug. 10, McIlroy's performance at the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events on the PGA Tour perhaps should not have been a surprise.
"It's more to do with just not putting the adequate time into my game over the past week for obvious reasons," McIlroy said after shooting 3-over par at Ridgewood Country Club. "I think that's really been it. So I'm going to grab a bit to eat here and go to the range this afternoon and work on a few things and really just catch up on some practice that I probably missed out on over the past week."
McIlroy trailed leaders Hunter Mahan, Cameron Tringale and Charles Howell III by eight strokes. The 74 was McIlroy's highest score over par since he shot 78 during the second round of the Scottish Open in July.
Since then, McIlroy had gone 14 consecutive rounds under par, including consecutive victories at the Open, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA. During that stretch, McIlroy had just one round in the 70s. And his previous round over par on the PGA Tour was during the final round of the U.S. Open.
After winning the PGA, McIlroy headed to New York for a few days of celebration before returning to Europe where he visited friends and family and attended the Manchester United opener on Saturday. He returned to New York on Sunday and had corporate obligations with Nike on Monday.
"It was inevitable, after such a great few weeks -- I wanted to enjoy it for a week," McIlroy said. "I came here Monday morning, hit some balls, practiced pretty well. But I guess taking a week off and sort of getting back into it this week, I probably just needed to give myself a bit more time. But I wasn't going to do that. I was enjoying myself."
His round included a 40 over his opening nine holes -- the eighth time in 2014 that McIlroy has shot at least 40 or more for nine holes in which he failed to make a birdie. For the day, McIlroy hit just seven of 14 fairways and took 32 putts and was outside of the top 100 among 123 players competing.
McIlroy, who is ranked No. 1 in the world and is also first in FedEx Cup points, has no worries about advancing to next week's Deutsche Bank Championship and is a virtual lock to make the 30-player Tour Championship in three weeks.
His goal, however, is to remain in the top five so he can control his fate in Atlanta.
"After you win the British and the PGA, I think it's going to be hard to get up mentally for any more golf," said Phil Mickelson, who shot an opening-round 71. "That made the year right there. Anything after that is irrelevant I think and I think it's difficult for him to get up.
"Now he's such a good player, he'll end up coming back tomorrow and I would anticipate a low round. But there's nothing he can do that is going to equal what he's already done this year."