From the cradle to the first tee, 'the next Rory McIlroy' is getting younger and younger. In the way we once talked about George Best's successor, the rush to anoint means that, still less than a decade on from the World No.1's first Major win, we're already onto the 'next, next McIlroy'.
It's only natural that from the day they can first grip a club, young prodigies dream of following in the footsteps of the Holywood star, the eye-watering prize money available on tour and the attendant lifestyle enjoyed by even modest pros now the envy of almost every sport in the world. It was not, however, always thus.
When Rory came into the world on the fifth day of May in 1989, it was another County Down native leading the way, Ronan Rafferty winning his first European Tour event that same month to begin a run that would see him end the year topping the Order of Merit and, 30 years ago this week, restoring an Irish professional presence at the US Open after an absence of more than four decades.
The world was smaller then, the golfing world smaller still for a young boy from Newry.
Back in the days before kids dreamed of a golfing career from a tender age, Rafferty attended Abbey Grammar where his first sporting successes came in the school's Gaelic football side. Yet by 12-years-old, there was to be only one thing he wanted from life.
"With any sport, there's always a catalyst that changes it from being a hobby to something that can be a profession," he says, looking back on his career from his home in Scotland.
"You're talking about a six-year-old today who sees Rory and sees what's out there, sees what can be achieved and starts mapping out a career. Well, for me that probably came in '76 watching Seve Ballesteros winging it all around Birkdale (at The Open).
"All of a sudden, there was a star, this swashbuckling Spaniard who's out there winning tournaments, and it inspires you.
"At that time in school you could take golf lessons and Don Patterson took me under his wing.
"Moving to Warrenpoint, they had three Irish youth internationals and I vividly remember seeing them photographed in their green sweaters and going off to England to play internationals.
"Those three things all happened very close together and that was it, by 12-years-old I was going to be a golfer, done and dusted."
Such singularity of purpose didn't always impress the powers that be - "golf then was an amateur game run by people with amateur views," he summarises.
One such example of the friction came with his insistence on using the soon-to-become standard 'big ball' in under-age foursomes. To someone so sure he was on his way to the pro ranks, it was only natural he'd want to play the ball he'd be using for the rest of his life. Others saw it as unwillingness to buy into a team ethos.
As something of a compromise, he'd be partnered more often than not with fellow aspiring pro Philip Walton but, foreshadowing future controversy, the storm in the teacup left him feeling his side of the argument was neither heard nor sought.
Leaving school the day he was legally allowed, he was counting down the months until he could turn pro.
After winning the British Boys as a 15-year-old, an ever-tougher schedule allowed no chance to defend the trophy, no option to pause before climbing the next rung up the ladder. It wasn't until finally turning pro in 1981 that the curve of his ascent would flatten.
There were plenty of unforgettable moments in those early seasons, a tie for ninth and a final round played alongside six-time Major winner Lee Trevino at St Andrews in the 1984 Open an obvious stand-out, while on the advice of his manager Roddy Carr he quickly sought out the likes of Nick Faldo and Ballesteros for practice rounds, keen to try and pick up the habits that made Europe's biggest stars tick.
But for all the learning opportunities, a remarkable 51 top-10s before his maiden win on the European Tour told its own frustrating story. Today, he credits his eventual breakthrough, as well as his enduring love of fine wines, to the decision to spend a winter in Australia.
"Everyone thought I was going to win and I just didn't," he says. "At that time after the season, you'd go home for months.
"Maybe you'd go somewhere warm and hit balls for a few weeks but you'd get to a tournament the Saturday before the season started again and tell yourself you were ready.
"In 1987, instead I took myself off to Australia for the winter, won three times, and came back to Europe ready to hit the ground running. I had my first European win by May."
Triumph at the Italian Open was just the start of Rafferty's annus mirabilis, a year best remembered for his one-shot win over Faldo at the prestigious Volvo Masters and a crucial 1-up victory over Mark Calcavecchia in Sunday's Ryder Cup singles as Europe held onto the trophy by their fingertips thanks to a 14-14 tie at The Belfry. The fruits of 1989's labours were to be enjoyed in 1990. His new-found status as the Order of Merit winner - a title gained thanks to earnings just a few good bottles of wine over £400,000 - became the key to opening up locked doors stateside.
"It's like doing anything in sport, winning is one thing and the other is how you deal with the aftermath," he says. "After 1989, suddenly you're asked to The Masters, you get invited to the US Open. Everything changes completely.
"All I used to do was basically enter every European Tour event and then, after I played four or five in a row, hoped I remembered to withdraw from the next one in time and play the five and six in a row after that.
"We'd be sitting between Christmas and New Years with a big list of tournaments, a big map and just ringing round travel agents trying to come up with something workable. It suddenly became difficult because people got hacked off.
"It took me a year or so to work out the best way to go about things, but by that time you've already hacked off more people than you would have liked from not doing the things that they wanted you to."
One invitation that would get an immediate RSVP that year was the US Open at Medinah.
While a few Irish amateurs had made the trip over the years - including Rafferty's one-time mentor Joe Carr - no professional from these shores had teed it up at the competition since before the Second World War. For the Irish, it had become the 'forgotten Major'.
My playing partners asked what they should say at the end. I said, 'Just tell them I've gone to the loo'. That's the story.
With media attention focused on the efforts of Jack Charlton's side at Italia '90, their draw with Egypt coming the day of the third round, the magnitude of the appearance largely passed Rafferty by in the moment. It was the size of the challenge that occupied his thoughts.
"It was just a very different thing to how it is now," says the former World No.16. "The guys on the PGA Tour, you didn't see them, you didn't know them.
"It wasn't like you went to the Bay Hill Classic and got drawn with Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, you'd be playing with Joe Bloggs and Fred Smith.
"Suddenly you turned up at the US Open, and everyone was there and you know what's in store too - the toughest test in golf. We didn't play courses like that, ones that were set up for you to not break par, where you could play great and shoot 80 in a blink.
"I remember I hit this great second shot, right at the pin, and all of a sudden I can hear a moan or a groan. A few yards short of the green I can see three marshals looking for my ball no more than a foot away from where I'd aimed it.
"The ball was lost 15ft from the pin, it took three minutes to find something that was six inches in the rough. That was the US Open in a nutshell."
Rafferty would finish 63rd in a tournament memorably won by a 45-year-old Hale Irwin after a Monday play-off and, having made the cut, he'd return home with a sense of accomplishment.
But his memories of the competition were not always to be so positive. Back in the field again at Hazeltine a year later, this time his exploits were to make plenty of headlines at home.
The uncontested version of events went as follows: Rafferty left the course after 27 holes with his scorecard showing 11-over. Beyond that, the picture muddied.
When the Associated Press reported his subsequent $8,000 fine, they postulated he'd left to be with his pregnant wife. Multiple other theories swirled in a story that rumbled on and on through the summer.
"Ah, Hazeltine... do you want me to tell the truth?" he asks. "I'd been ill two weeks before and lost nearly a stone.
"I was back in the hotel after my first round and I remember being sat wondering how I was going to play another 18 holes.
"After a few holes on the Friday, I told the referee that I was struggling and at the ninth I told him I was leaving.
"My playing partners asked what they should say at the end. I said, 'Just tell them I've gone to the loo'. That's the story."
The joke among journalists in the aftermath was that he'd neglected to mention the loo in question was on a Boeing 747 already pointed in the direction of London, though Rafferty never denied that he'd made a quick exit.
"I got a courtesy car to go back to the hotel," he continues. "I got an overnight flight back to London and I was straight down to Cornwall for a week, a planned holiday with my family.
"I came back after that week and all hell had broken loose. It stayed in the headlines because, according to one newspaper report, I'd gone into hiding.
"I had no idea what was going on. I was in a thatched cottage with no phone and a TV that you needed to put coins into to turn on. The stories were getting worse and worse by the day.
"It was a disgrace. I know what people said, and I know how I got treated, but I know what happened too. I was a big boy then and I'm a bigger boy now.
"I'm quite happy to hold my hand up and say what I did wrong. But it was 30 years ago and you've got to let it go."
Whatever the size of the fallout, he was back at the US Open the next year for a third and final time.
But while there were a few more memorable days at Majors to come - he was co-leader of the 1994 Open after 63 holes before a double bogey on the 10th brought him back to the pack - by then the end was near, a hand injury in 1997 ensuring his time at the top of European golf was to be a short one.
He'd attempt a comeback in 2000 but in his absence the game had changed. Between his first surgery and a return at the Portuguese Open in 2000, a young phenomenon named Tiger Woods had his first two Majors and would add three more before the year was out.
Young players unknown to Rafferty were launching the ball unheard of distances, the first steps along a path that would lead to a bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau finish with a driving average north of 340 yards at the Charles Schwab last week.
"By the time I came back the game had passed me by," he says. "In my day, you'd be viewed as crazy if you even went for a run. By then everyone was younger and everyone was fitter, players were coming off the Challenge Tour every year ready to win.
"I'd be asked in the media before if I expected to win and I remember thinking I'd be delighted if I made the cut. If I missed it by a couple of shots, I was being talked about as a failure.
"I never wanted to be an also-ran, to be happy with a tie for 30th or anything like that, and I knew the writing was on the wall.
"My game just wasn't there anymore. I couldn't play and I couldn't practice. I'd be travelling with this huge bucket of silicone gel that I'd have to put my hand in when I should have been on the range.
"It was all downhill very quickly."
Now 56-years-old, the same competitive juices still flow through the veins even if it's time he duels now, not Faldo, Ballesteros, Olazabal or Montgomerie.
"I'm lucky enough to live close enough to Gleneagles so I was out the other day for my first game in three months," he says.
"It's all those things that you hoped getting older wouldn't be. You're sore, you're stiff and you just can't hit it as far.
"That said, I started birdie, birdie. Moments like that bring you back for just a second."
Soon the corporate scene will be back too, golf-loving clients looking to pick the brain of the former European No.1 in the same way he did of the tour's leading stars when still a self-confessed cocky 17-year-old.
"People are so receptive to it all. They want to know how to improve their game but they want to hear your stories too," he adds.
"They want to know what it's like to stand on the fairway with a five-iron in your hand and knock it onto the green knowing you're going to win a tournament; they want to know what it's like to battle Faldo; what it's like to play Augusta, the US Open; what it's like to come up to the 10th leading The Open."
Given the multitude of historic feats from compatriots in years since, perhaps it's too easily forgotten just how few men can answer such questions.