Rory McIlroy may well go on to enjoy a stellar 2021 and add to his Major haul in emphatic fashion, but he's currently locked in a strange battle with golf's pressure-packed moments and right now he's losing.
On Sunday, the pride of Holywood shot a level par 72 when the heat was on in his final round battle with Tyrrell Hatton for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and he heads to this week's Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego with the air of a man who has just missed the cut.
By rights, Shane Lowry has every reason to be more annoyed than McIlroy ahead of his appearance in this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic, alongside Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington, after he failed to raise much of a gallop on his 2021 bow in Abu Dhabi.
And yet we are left with the impression that McIlroy, who is admittedly in the midst of making a subtle change to his game under the tutelage of Butch Harmon and Michael Bannon, plainly has issues to resolve that go beyond physical mechanics.
At least it appears that way, given some of his more recent performances under pressure, especially on Sundays, in an era of huge golfing equality.
In Majors, his issues have manifested themselves in the opening round more often than not. He has broken 70 in just five of his 22 opening rounds since he won the most recent of his four Major championships in 2014.
It beggars belief that a player who has won nine PGA Tour events, three European Tour titles, two FedEx Cups and a Race to Dubai since 2015, has been in the mix less than a handful of times in golf's biggest events since he lifted the Wanamaker Trophy at Valhalla in 2014.
It's also hard to forget that first round 78 at the US Open at Erin Hills in 2017, an opening 80 at Shinnecock Hills in 2018 and the stomach-churning 79 that ruined his chances of winning The Open at Royal Portrush.
Add to that the fear-filled opening 75 he shot in the Masters last November on a day when 53 players broke par, and it's hard to imagine that some scars don't remain, especially when you've been forced to watch Dustin Johnson ease around in 65. Averaging 72.22 on the first day of Majors when your first round as an amateur was a 68 at Carnoustie and your career average for your first 25 was 70.2 is unusual and a heavy burden to bear.
But there have also been signs of stress in McIlroy's game on Sundays - at least eight - since he captured the most recent of his 28 professional victories in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in November 2019.
Many will remember last year's Genesis Invitational where he was tied for the 54-hole lead with Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar but ran up an early triple bogey and shot 73 on Sunday to slip to fifth. Three weeks later, he was tucked two shots behind Hatton heading into the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at a highly demanding Bay Hill, but made two double bogeys in a 76 to finish fifth.
Golf shut down for the pandemic but when it returned, McIlroy was lacklustre on Sunday, shooting 74 at the Charles Schwab Challenge and 78 at the Memorial.
At the US Open, he shot 75 to finish eighth. There was also a one-over 71 in the BMW Championship and a 74 in the CJ Cup, where he finished tied 21st despite an incredible 23 birdies.
Down one spot to world No 7, McIlroy is now officially Europe's third best behind Jon Rahm and the new world No 5, Hatton.
He needs his A-plus game to guarantee a victory and that brings pressure in an era when the gap between the great and good has narrowed considerably.