Rory McIlroy claimed he needed to take a step back from golf after his frustrating performance at the Open Championship, but the Olympics appear to have been just the tonic.
McIlroy carded 70-70-69-71 at Royal St George's to finish tied for 46th, well off the pace set by champion Collin Morikawa.
However, the four-time major winner has returned to form across the first two days of the men's golf at the Tokyo Olympics, and is in a tie for seventh along with fellow Team Ireland representative Shane Lowry.
Team USA's Xander Schauffele, who has backing in Japan – where his mother was raised – leads the way with 11 under, but McIlroy's five under par on Friday has put him firmly in medal contention.
Two birdies and an eagle on the front nine saw McIlroy leap up the leaderboard, though a bogey on his last hole saw McIlroy drop back to seven under overall.
It marks a welcome return to form for the 32-year-old, whose victory at the Wells Fargo Championship in May is his only success since 2019.
"My mental game more than anything. I think all the tools are there physically. Mentally there were a few things over the weekend at St George's," McIlroy said when asked what he needed to change after his disappointing display at the Open.
"Even getting off to that hot start on Saturday and not being able to keep it going and then the two tee shots I hit off 14 at the weekend were absolutely horrific. It was more a mental thing, I was crapping myself about hitting it out of bounds right and I hit it so far left with a 3-iron and I chunked a 2-iron on Sunday as well.
"I was just thinking too much about consequences and when you do that you are not as effortless, you are not as free, athletic, instinctive, all that sort of stuff.
"I actually needed to get away from the game a little bit so I didn't touch the clubs for most of the week."
McIlroy had low expectations ahead of making his Olympic debut, but is thrilled to be fighting for a podium place and is already casting an eye towards the Paris Games.
"The goal today was to get back in touch," he said.
"That was my thing I just wanted to get into contention going into the weekend and at least feel like I was part of the tournament and I've done that.
"It's funny when you sort of approach tournaments like that it's funny how you end up playing some of your best golf. Sometimes you can want things too much.
"I didn't know if this was going to be my only Olympics I am going to play and I am already looking forward to Paris . Just the experience and this is obviously a very watered down experience compared to what it usually is."