For two months this season Rory McIlroy could do nothing right. But that all changed at Quail Hollow on Sunday, where the Hollywood sensation followed his mind-blowing, four stroke victory with a post round press conference that was as ever bit as immaculate as the 62 that blew the best in the world away.
McIlroy made an eagle and eight birdies in one of the greatest final round performances ever seen on the PGA Tour, moving up four spots to ninth in the world, to second in the European Ryder Cup race and from 166th to 25th in the FedEx Cup standings.
He could have been forgiven for losing the run of himself but there was no need to overdo it in terms of what this win means to his career or his status as a major champion in waiting.
“I shot a 16-under on the weekend around a golf course like this. You can’t get much more of a confidence boost than that. But I’ve still got a long way to go,” McIlroy said. “Great young players like Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim, they’ve won three times on this tour, and this is my first, and hopefully I’ll be able to join them soon.
“I just want to concentrate on getting a few more wins, learn as much as I can at the majors. I’ve had a couple of good finishes in majors before, but it really takes a while to get used to figure them out.
“But you know, if I went to a major championship and played like that over the weekend, I probably would win, as well. I’m just looking forward to getting that next win.”
Padraig Harrington waited for two hours to see McIlroy finish and insisted that the young Ulsterman’s victory couldn’t have come at a more important time.
“He wasn’t contending, wasn’t winning, and if he can get across the line it makes it a lot easier for him going forward,” Harrington said as McIlroy played the last few holes. “I think it could make a big difference to his career.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him, a lot of focus on him at home, and it’s putting him under enormous pressure to deliver, and obviously every week that he doesn’t deliver, it’s getting on him. But you know, if he can win here, it eases it all off.”
Masters champion Phil Mickelson sportingly said: “He’s an amazing talent. You knew he was going to come out and win out here. He’s won all other places in the world at 20 years old. It’s remarkable, and he is some kind of player.
“He’s got all the shots, he’s got the game of a veteran, and he’s a class act. He’s fun to be around. You can’t help but pull for him - 62 is one of the best rounds I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
McIlroy’s maturity shone through when he explained that he would use part of his $1.17m prize money to buy trees for the practice range he is building at his Moneyreagh home near Belfast.
“Trees are pretty expensive,” he said.
But CBS commentator David Feherty, now a US citizen, was stunned by McIlroy’s composure coming down the final, three-hole stretch they call the Green Mile.
An assistant pro at Holywood before McIlroy was born, Feherty said: “To play like that, with the lead, at his age, stunning. I tried to be as impartial as I could, but I was jumping up and down like a leprechaun.
“You’re supposed to soil yourself on the last three here, especially at 20. At that age, I was thinking, ‘How am I going to lose this?’ He was taking it further and further. And that does remind you of somebody.”
For once, nobody was talking about Tiger Woods.