We all know who Rory McIlroy is not. He’s not Tiger Woods, a freak of nature who turned up ready and able to win, every week, for the best part of a decade.
He’s not Padraig Harrington, who can suffer the most humiliating of days and still extract a microgram of confidence that allows him to move on with something positive to draw upon.
He’s not Graeme McDowell, who would rather die with a dagger clenched between his teeth than go down whimpering or waving a white flag.
So who is McIlroy, apart from the world No 1 and the reigning US Open champion? And more importanty, who does he want to be?
The version we saw at Wentworth over the first two days of the BMW PGA Championship is certainly someone we’ve seen before. Many times.
The swing struggles, the slumped shoulders, the sour countenance, the lack of grit were once a regular occurence in his early years on tour.
The club throwing incident in Thursday’s first round was reminiscent of his teenage days on the amateur circuit. Those who were at Royal Dublin for the 2007 Irish Amateur Open will remember how he slammed a club through a leather golf bag and was later chastised by an outraged club member in the car park. Those with even longer memories will recall how he was called in to the GUI office with his father to be dressed down after burying his putter in the ninth green at Westport in the 2005 Irish Close championship, where he became the youngest winner of the title at the age of 16.
Those youthful indisgressions were quickly forgiven but McIlroy is now on a different plane and every swing is covered live on television, every gesture analysed under the microscope.
Welcome to Tiger’s world.
Learning to grind out a score is possibly McIlroy’s biggest challenge. He wants to compete with his B game yet he’s failed to do that now in his last two starts, missing the cut at Sawgrass and Wentworth when patently at odds with his game.
“To be the best Rory can be, he’s got to develop that dogginess side to him,” Graeme McDowell said after McIlroy lost 8 and 7 to Ben Crane in last year’s WGC Accenture Match Play in Tucson. “He’s one of these guys that makes the game look so incredibly easy. It’s an easy game to be positive and enjoy it when everything is going great. But how do you respond when things aren’t going so well?
“I haven’t played a lot with him competitively. It’s tough to sit here and judge the guy. Like I say, I think he makes the game look unbelievably easy. Maybe he has to learn how to deal with the tough days and just grind it out.”
McIlroy’s admission that he took his foot off the gas after the Masters and neglected his game is not necessarily a bad thing.
“I have taken my eye off the ball and did not practice as hard as I might. I have lacked competitive golf after taking a couple of weeks off following the Masters. On the back nine I was already thinking about [Memorial] next week. This was a week I’d like to forget.”
Ludicriously, fingers will be pointed at the tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, who has smitten the young Northern Irishman.
Yet would we rather see McIlroy consumed by the game at the age of 23? I think not.
Harrington is a wonderful example to golfers everywhere for his integrity and fighting spirit. Yet the 40-year old Dubliner has patently become obsessed by the game.
While he’s a dedicated family man it could be argued that the three-time major winner could do with finding a decent hobby - stamp collecting, gardening, cycling - anything to stop him endlessly obsessing about the elements of his game that have been letting him down for the past few years.
Whether it’s paralysis by analysis who knows but it’s not helping him.
McIlroy has interests outside the game of golf and it’s debatable if he is going to win more majors by becoming a Tappist monk in spikes.
Over to you Conor Ridge et al at Horizon Sports management.