McIlroy becomes cream of the crop
For years Colin Montgomerie would satisfy the headline writers either with success on the golf course or his talkative ways off it.
"What will we do without him?" was an often recited question among golf journalists reflecting on another day saved by the most quotable figure in the game. Time after time Monty, either by deed or word, would create the most newsworthy event of a tournament day.
Now there can be little doubt the veteran Scot has been superseded by US Open champion Rory McIlroy as the most productive headline-making machine in golf.
Indeed, from the moment television cameras captured the boyhood McIlroy chipping into his mum's washing machine, he seems to have had an instinctive knack for creating news stories.
When he made his Open Championship debut as an amateur in 2008 at Carnoustie he was being given "unofficial" advice by his now former manager Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler.
International Sports Management's (ISM) founder was planning to offer media training to the teenager he was about to sign. Once McIlroy became the only player to go bogey-free on the first day at the fearsome Scottish links, Chandler was reconsidering the move.
He saw how easily McIlroy dealt with the television, radio and newspaper interviews. The lad from Holywood, Northern Ireland had a natural ease in the spotlight that no media trainer could possibly enhance.
"You cannot teach charisma," Chandler noted and the planned lessons were abruptly cancelled.
Fast forward to today and a period likely to be regarded as the post-Tiger Woods era and we can safely say the 22-year-old has become the biggest draw in world golf.
The US Open victory was Rory McIlroy's first in a major tournament. Photo: Reuters
With his stunning eight-shot victory in the US Open at Congressional in June, he produced by miles the outstanding performance of 2011. But that, as they say, is barely the half of it.
Already this year McIlroy had spectacularly blown a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the Masters - but he handled the disappointment with a dignity that earned the sympathy of the golfing world.
Three months later he bounced back with that first Major in Washington to delight Europe and satisfy America's extraordinary love of a tale of redemption.
No longer did he solely belong on the back pages. He was briefly reunited with his childhood sweetheart and long-term girlfriend Holly Sweeney - only for them to break up in the wake of that first Major victory.
Then, in the wake of a lacklustre four days at Royal St George's where he finished 25th with a seven-over-par, McIlroy stunned us by saying that he could only win the Open if the wind didn't blow.
Next he embroiled himself in a Twitter row with pundit Jay Townsend at the Irish Open. Townsend criticised McIlroy's course management, while McIlroy responded by telling Townsend to "shut up" and calling him a "failed golfer".
At the US PGA he took on a ludicrous second shot at the third hole of his first round which involved hitting against a tree root - a contest he was never likely to win. As a result he injured his wrist and it was some achievement, though probably foolhardy, for McIlroy to complete all four rounds.
But, if he needed comfort to salve the injury, it came in the shape of the world's top tennis player and his new girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki. You would struggle to make up the number of ways he could find to make headlines.
Nevertheless, the constants in his life remained - father Gerry, mother Rosie and manager Chubby.
That was until a couple of weeks ago when the most unexpected story of the lot transpired and he dispensed with the agent who had nurtured his career since his amateur days.
It is a decision that remains the talk of the range and beyond, especially as there has been no shortage of blue-chip deals since that landmark US Open victory. Rumour has it McIlroy was unhappy with the way his public image was being managed but any adverse publicity he has suffered has been largely self-inflicted, beyond the bounds of any manager to prevent.
Even so it was the player's prerogative, particularly as his deal with Chandler was done on a handshake. Who knows what guarantees he has secured with Horizon Sports, his new Dublin-based management company?
What is beyond debate is that McIlroy had continued to keep his name in the headlines at a time when he wasn't doing much out of the ordinary on the golf course.
A string of high finishes showed his form was decent but he could not find a way to add to what was a poor reflection of his talents - just three career wins.
That was until he competed for the richest individual prize in golf at the Shanghai Masters. Totally in keeping, he ensured the stories would be all about him throughout the tournament.
McIlroy led for the first three rounds, wobbled on the final day and then won a play-off against Anthony Kim to bank the £1.25m first prize.
So now, as we head into the final WGC of the year - the HSBC Champions event in the same Chinese city - he is once again the main story in town. Still to elaborate on his split with ISM, McIlroy will prefer to reflect on this lucrative victory when facing inevitable questions this week.
Regardless, his pre-tournament news conference on Wednesday will command the biggest attendance, just as used to be the case for Monty in his pomp and, for that matter, Woods.
Neither has qualified for this tournament but with McIlroy taking part they will be hardly missed.