You'd have been laughed out of court if you had suggested back in 2014, when he collected his fourth major, that Rory McIlroy
would end his career as anything but the best player of his generation.
Now, of course, it's very much up for grabs. For years there's been the ominous sound of gathering footsteps as first Jordan Spieth
and then Brooks Koepka moved to within a single major of the Northern Irishman.
With the two Americans out in the final pairing in the third round of the US PGA Championship
on Saturday, this will surely prove the weekend when McIlroy is finally caught.
Long before Koepka and Spieth made their way to the first tee, McIlroy was done for the day, following another exasperating round that ought to have been far lower than his eventual 69.
Another major has come and gone without him featuring on the leader board. There appears a grave danger that McIlroy will suffer the same fate as Seve Ballesteros, who motored to four majors in his 20s but was eventually caught and passed by Sir Nick Faldo.
He started like a train on Saturday, picking up from where he left off the previous day, when he birdied four holes on his back nine — the front nine on the card — to make the halfway cut.
Over the same stretch of holes, he could easily have been five under par after four, since he missed three hole-able putts to begin before draining a 30 foot effort for an eagle at the fourth. Another laser long iron set up a birdie at the eighth.
The back nine, however, has given him problems all week and so it continued. A dropped shot at the 10th was followed by another in cruel fashion at the 14th, where his ball did a complete circle of the hole before staying out.
Adding insult to injury were two more missed putts from holeable range at the 15th and 17th. 'It could quite easily have been a 64 or 65,' said McIlroy.
He was gracious when asked about Koepka, who began with a seven-stroke lead in search of his fourth major out of the last eight he's played.
'I watched most of his second round and it was awesome,' he said. 'He's playing golf on a different level to everyone else.'
Will Rory ever rekindle those days when he was the man at the majors that everyone spoke about in hushed tones?
Two majors down already this year — and the next one is the US Open where he's missed the halfway cut for the past three years, followed by the Open at Portrush, where the clamour could well prove overwhelming. Another year is threatening to pass him by in a blur, therefore, with no reward once more.
Elsewhere, Rich Beem, a former PGA champion but better known these days as an analyst for Sky Sports, completed a roller coaster 24 hours even by the tumultuous standards of a major.
On Friday, he made the halfway cut on the number after playing the back nine in just 30 strokes. Was he thinking to himself he should get out and play more?
A day later, he must have been glad for his television gig after playing the same stretch of holes in no fewer than 13 shots more. He ended up signing for an 82.