It was like Neil Armstrong breaking his ankle as he stepped off the lunar module.
Rory McIroy, playing like a living god after 44 days among the mere mortals, took some of the gloss off a magnificent second round performance he missed two short putts on the last two greens.
It still added up to a stunning, six under par 65 in round two of the WGC - Mexico Championship and a two-stroke lead for the world No 3.
But just when commentators were running out of superlatives to describe the game of the four-time major winner — he even holed out from 150 yards with a nine-iron for an eagle two at the 14th — he missed a good birdie chance from six feet at the 16th, carelessly three-putted the 17th and then lipped out from 39 inches for birdie at the 18th.
Having spent Wednesday night "worshiping the ceramic bowl", McIlroy looked like he wanted to be sick over Golf Channel's Steve Sands having just let slip a chance to take a vice-like grip in the tournament.
But he quickly composed himself in his post-round interview and reflected on the positives of what appears to be a perfect recovery from a serious injury rather than dwelling on a couple of lapses in concentration.
"Overall, great. Going out starting I would have taken a 65," he said, wanly. "But I had three... I had a great chance on 16 for birdie, I three-putt 17 and then miss from short range on 18.
"But look, I am in a great position, leading going into the weekend. But I feel like I could have been a few more ahead."
Considering he has played just six competitive rounds of golf since last November, McIlroy was mightily impressive, especially on the front nine.
He missed just one fairway and only one green in regulation and notched four birdies, then recovered from a bogey at the 12th with a birdied two at the 13th and a slightly fortuitous eagle two with a nine-iron on the 14th.
“I played really solid," said McIlroy, who also two-putted the 15th for a birdie four.
"I basically hit the ball where I was looking for the most part. I think my wedge play was really good. I had some really good wedges and short irons and if you can do that around here you're going to score well.
“I was a little disappointed with the couple of misses coming in, but it can happen late in the day on these greens. Yeah, a couple of misreads, that was really it.
"I felt like I made two good strokes on those last two holes, but these things happen. But I'm still two ahead going in the weekend, so I'm in a good spot.
“I’ve way exceeded expectations so far this week. I came here not with low expectations, but I didn't really know what to expect.
"It's my first competitive week back after seven weeks after an injury. I was just trying to take it each day as it came.
"I've got through two days, and I'm in a pretty good spot and hopefully the next two days go just as well. Definitely exceeded expectations up until this point.”
McIlroy must win to speed what looks like an inevitable return to No 1 in the world rankings. Apart from that he has to hope that Dustin Johnson finishes in a two-way tie for third or worse.
As things stand, McIlroy is "just" two shot ahead of Phil Mickelson (68) - his third round playing partner — Ross Fisher (68) and Justin Thomas (66) on nine-under par, and only three ahead of Johnson
The rangy American was seven shots behind McIlroy with four holes to go but birdied the 15th, 16th and 18th for a 66 to lurk just three shots back in joint fifth with England's Andy Sullivan (65) and Daniel Berger (66) on six-under.
European Tour Members Tyrell Hatton, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Pieters, Jon Rahm and Fabrizio Zanotti are among those tied on five under with Matt Fitzpatrick, Joost Luiten and Lee Westwood a further stroke back alongside Rickie Fowler.