Rory McIlroy may have finished the first round of the BMW Masters trailing the young American Luke Guthrie by six strokes, but it does not take a huge leap of the imagination to picture the former world No 1 holding this particular trophy aloft come Sunday. If not this one, then another one very soon indeed.
In brutal winds, Guthrie had his round of rounds at Lake Malaren; one of 65 that was made up of five birdies, a chip-in eagle and a barely believable 19 putts. By way of contrast, McIlroy's round looked, on paper at least, to have been a little pedestrian. It was nothing of the sort.
Much of the talk in the locker rooms these past nine months has centred on the way McIlroy had lost the ability to drive the ball far and straight. It had been his most potent weapon and it disappeared the moment he switched to Nike clubs and ball in January. On current evidence, however, the big gun is no longer misfiring. The Northern Irishman finally has a driver he can trust and a ball that is responding as he would expect. "Rory off the tee looked very much as he did in 2011 and 2012," said Graeme McDowell, his playing partner, who somehow finished one shot ahead of McIlroy, on two under par. "It was a bit ominous, really. He drove it a lot more like the Rory of old. He was awesome."
There is no mistaking the McIlroy swagger and it is back in all its glory. "Everything is falling back into place," he said. "I'm swinging better than I have all year and it's good to feel so positive about my game, to keep giving myself chances. Once you find it again, it's great."
With speculation that McDowell and McIlroy had fallen out over the latter's decision to leave Horizon, their shared management company, it was also telling how comfortable they seemed in each other's company. McIlroy was not at McDowell's wedding five weeks' ago. "Obviously it wasn't a great one to miss," he said. "Kristin's a great girl. In fact, she did the interior design on my house in Florida." Was it an expensive bash? "Well, it's not just G-Mac making the money in that relationship," he said, looking towards his old friend and laughing.
He's back. He's definitely back.