Rory McIlroy knows his work ethic has to improve
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson tee it up at The Farmers Insurance Open in Torrey Pines this week ... but you'll have to wait until next week's Qatar Masters to see the World No 1 and No 2 in action.
If you'd said that a couple of years back, the men in white would have come knocking at your door.
Yet there they are, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the pride of Europe, sitting on top of the world rankings ... not to mention Graeme McDowell in fourth, Rory McIlroy seventh, Paul Casey ninth, Luke Donald 10th and Ian Poulter 12th.
It's tragic that Woods, now third in the world, had to wound his family and himself so badly for equilibrium to be restored in global golf.
Yet now that it is, the outlook for the game could hardly be better ... especially in Europe.
For natural winners, look no further than guys like Westwood, Kaymer and McDowell.
And Rory McIlroy? Inevitably, the jury's still out on the 21-year-old, although he is the most naturally gifted and exciting young player in the world.
When he's hot, McIlroy's unstoppable. When he's not, he staggers under the weight of unfair expectation.
As for Kaymer, it’s tempting to compare him to Michael Schumacher, though appearances are deceptive. Imperious on the course, the 26-year-old golfer marries humility with trademark German frankness.
So when he was asked on Saturday evening if he was surprised McIlroy had not won more, Kaymer said: “Yes, I am very, very surprised.”
He then went on: “When I came on Tour I was 21. I learned a lot about myself. The last five years travelling on Tour, working with different people, dealing with the media, have helped me to mature as a golfer.
“I don't want to say Rory's not mature. In fact, I think he's very mature for his age. But I think just that little bit extra is missing at the minute.
“But, you know, if you give him a couple more years on Tour, especially when he plays a bit more in America, which is different for us as well, his prime will come. He will be one of the best players in the world. I definitely think he will be No 1!”
McIlroy's circumstances are much changed in 2011 yet the greatest transformation is psychological.
He explained: “I expect a lot this year, though really the one goal I've set myself is simply to work hard. There were times last year where I didn't feel I gave it 100 per cent.
“As a professional sportsman, you can't do that,” he admitted.
“I'm talking about teeing off on a Sunday morning at nine, when you don't really have a chance to win. Sometimes I found it hard to get motivated in those circumstances and didn't give it my all.
“So you set a goal every day and try to achieve that.”
And McDowell has taken a similar outlook.
“I can sometimes show impatience if a course is there for the taking or when I'm playing very well. It's something I have to learn to control.”
It's refreshing when guys like McIlroy and McDowell find it so hard to compromise or settle for second best. Maybe that's the European way!