(Reuters) - World number three Rory McIlroy aims to make up for lost time by regaining the habit of being in tournament contention when he tees off in the first round of this week's Frys.com Open, the opening event on the 2015-16 PGA Tour.
The Northern Irishman was sidelined for almost two months after rupturing a ligament in his ankle while playing soccer with friends on July 4, forcing him to miss the British Open at St. Andrews, one of his favorite venues, among other events.
Though he triumphed three times this year, all those wins came before the end of May and he is eager to recapture his usual ability of contending virtually every time he competes, starting this week at Silverado Resort in Napa, California.
"Since I've come back from the injury, I've had a couple of good finishes but not really been in contention," McIlroy, 26, told reporters on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday's opening round.
"So I want to get back into contention, have chances to win tournaments. That's really my focus until the end of the year. I've got four opportunities to do that from now until Dubai," he said, referring to the PGA Tour and its European equivalent.
A four-time major champion, McIlroy described 2015 as something of a 'lost year' because of his inability to add further wins in golf's blue riband events to his career resume.
"I would say it was a good season, it wasn't a great season," said the Northern Irishman. "I feel like I'm at a stage in my career where a great season is defined by major championships.
"My major championship performances this year were solid but they weren't what I wanted them to be. So it was a lost year in the fact that I didn't win a major and didn't add to that tally."
Competing this week for the first time since he tied for 16th at last month's season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, McIlroy was in confident mood on the eve of the Frys.com Open.
"I'm happier with my game now than I was leaving Atlanta a couple of weeks ago so that's a good sign," he said. "My game feels in good shape. I'm happy to be here. I saw the course for the first time today and liked what I saw."
McIlroy heads a strong field at Silverado Resort where English world number seven Justin Rose, 12th-ranked American Brooks Koepka and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (15th) are also competing.
A notable absentee is last year's winner, Bae Sang-moon, due to a requirement for him to complete two years of military service back in his native South Korea.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)