(CNN) -- After finishing tied for 40th at the Masters in April, Rory McIlroy might have been expected to throw himself into a punishing training regime.
After all, golf's U.S. Open champion was one of the tipsters' favorites to take the title in Augusta. But the 22-year-old Northern Irishman, so often hyped as the next Tiger Woods, failed to erase memories of his nightmare collapse at the same tournament 12 months previously.
But McIlroy didn't brood. He didn't even pick up a club. Instead the world No. 2 flew to Europe for a vacation with his girlfriend, Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.
They holidayed in Copenhagen and Nice. And even flew to Belfast to watch Ulster's rugby team take on Leinster. Somehow they found the time to meet Britain's Queen Elizabeth at a horse racing event.
It seems the green was the last thing on McIlroy's mind since that disappointing Masters performance. But now, as he returns to the PGA Tour for this week's Wells Fargo Championship -- a tournament he won in 2010 -- McIlroy says taking time out will be the key to his success.
"I don't want to be burned out by the time I'm 30. I want to try to prolong my career as much as I can. I sometimes take a little bit too much out of myself, especially at the end of the season," he said on the PGA Tour website.
"I'm trying to find the perfect balance between golf and having a normal life and everything else. For me there's more to life than just golf. I don't know if people are surprised to hear that, but I have a lot more going on in my life than just golf."
McIlroy has reason to be confident at Quail Hollow. It was here that he won his first PGA Tour title two years ago, shooting 62 in the final round to set a new course record. He also became the first player since Woods to win a PGA Tour event before his 21st birthday.
"It's always nice to come back to somewhere where you've had success," he said.
"I've got great memories of this course and of this tournament from 2010. I've played some great golf here and played not so great golf here last year. But I'm looking forward just to get back out on the course."
Wells Fargo is the first of four tournaments McIlroy will play before launching his U.S. Open title defense in June. He has drastically cut back his schedule to 23 starts this year -- seven less than 2011. But as he argues, it's all part of the game plan.
"Basically the most important time for me in the golf season is from the start of April until the end of August. That's when all the big tournaments are and that's when you want to play your best golf," he said.
"All the stuff either side of that is more preparation work and making sure that your game is getting ready and your body is physically ready for that time of the year.
"I know I've been criticized a little bit for not playing as much as some other guys leading into these few weeks, but I know I've got a big stretch coming up, and I want to be as fresh as possible for this."