Rory's reputation gains world support
Rory McIlroy is not officially the world's number one golfer but it will feel as though he is when he embarks on the second leg of his American tour of duty this week.
Of the many abiding images he stirred during his run to the final of the WGC Match Play, perhaps the most powerful was the chanting of his name during the final which he lost to Hunter Mahan.
McIlroy was treated as the home town boy despite the fact that the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland was facing an American Ryder Cup player in the Arizona desert.
They love a star in the United States and although McIlroy failed to claim his first WGC title on Sunday evening he remains the one that shines most brightly in the game right now. As far as the Tucson crowds are concerned he has already earned his stripes.
This was despite the world number two being largely and inexplicably ignored by TV directors for much of the opening rounds which was baffling treatment for the reigning US Open champion.
Nevertheless, McIlroy's celebrity grows with every tournament he plays. He exudes a charisma that matches his golfing X Factor.
So when he admits that it is "almost inevitable" that he will go to number one in the world sooner rather than later, he is able to do it without appearing in any way conceited.
McIlroy's swing has been criticised by some, but supported by others. Photo: AP
More and more he is becoming the centre of attention in the golfing world; he is starting to close in on the territory that has been the almost exclusive domain of Tiger Woods for the last decade and a half.
McIlroy's every move is gaining more and more analysis - especially his swing. Critics try to highlight the odd fault and it was interesting to hear a range of opinions in Tucson last week.
Sir Nick Faldo raised concerns that McIlroy's right knee moves too much and another former pro told me the Holywood youngster is too steep on the way back. Then again former US Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger tweeted that McIlroy's is the most pure action in the game right now.
This is exactly the sort of treatment that Woods has endured throughout his career. The former number one tends to bridle when those less worthy pipe up with their views, although he admits it doesn't annoy him as much as it used to.
McIlroy is a somewhat different character and already seems a much more mature figure than when he reacted so angrily to Jay Townsend's Twitter attack on his caddie JP Fitzgerald last summer.
He can look at a results sheet that shows it has become a rarity when he finishes outside the top three of any tournament he plays. There is instant justification for how he goes about playing the game.
McIIroy's course management can still be called into question but that is an inevitable biproduct when you play with such verve and confidence. It is less likely you will recognise a downside to your intentions when you absolutely believe you can execute an ambitious shot.
Although he lost the final to Mahan, his victory in the semis over England's Lee Westwood will serve him extremely well in the future.
It was a match that both men desperately wanted to win and it is more probable than possible that they will be eyeing each other in a major final round before long.
Westwood's desire to avenge this defeat will know no bounds but his key objective is sustaining current form. His short game is growing more secure and relieving the pressure on his traditional strengths of driving and long iron play.
He is fit and confident and will be looking to continue in this vein at West Palm Beach this week. Sensibly Luke Donald is not playing the Honda Classic and instead is taking the chance to put his game back in order after falling to Ernie Els in the first round of his Matchplay defence.
They are now entering into the spell where all players are hoping to hone their games for the year's first major, The Masters, in April.
Some have further to travel than others. Donald is some way off while Westwood is firmly on course - and so too, of course, is McIlroy despite his final failure in Tucson.
It won't be long before his name is being chanted again and with great delight by fans wherever they reside on the golfing globe.