But just remember the new, refined McIlroy: "I don't play golf to answer - I play golf for myself".
He answered in the best possible manner and under great pressure with a win that will surely silence the doubters and it appears he has the golfing world at his feet for the remainder of 2019.
"We're singling out Brad because my putting has definitely improved over the 12 months, but everyone on my team, my caddie Harry, my manager Sean, my coach Michael, my wife Erica, everyone plays their part in me getting to this point".
The 48-year-old US Ryder Cup captain produced two birdies in his final three holes to close on 15 under.
"I think it's been having a focus over the last six or seven months on my attitude, especially my attitude to golf, and not letting golf define who I am as a person, trying to keep the two things very separate", McIlroy said. Although none of his final rounds was disgusting - he shot 72 a week ago in the final round at Bay Hill - he was coming up short. He was lucky it came down into the bunker, and from there he drilled a 6-iron from 180 yards.
"Didn't miss many shots out there, " Rahm said. The victory, which earned him $2.25 million, vaulted McIlroy from 11th to first in the FedEx Cup standings.
The timing was ideal.
McIlroy it was who finished fastest though, in direct contrast to his start. I don't think people give.they just think he's my best friend and I got him on the bag because I didn't want to listen to anyone else.
The American said: "I fought hard on the back nine and I just wish I had been able to put that same score on the front nine, then I would have got myself near that lead". This is my tournament. I didn't feel I needed a win going into Augusta.
The biggest one was from Tiger, a player McIlroy grew up idolizing as a kid and has since bonded with a number of times over the years on Tour.
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Fleetwood also carded a third-round two-under-par 70 after battling back from a awful start.
A missed putt for par at 15 resulted in a costly bogey for Furyk, which dropped him to 13-under and tied for third. And the all-time greatest iron game he is known for, and has already shown this year, was nowhere to be seen. The runner-up finish moves him high enough in the world ranking to qualifying for the Match Play in two weeks. "But ultimately, left it all out there". It'll be a confidence boost going forward.
The strength to nail it came from his experience more than a decade ago at the Hong Kong Open.
His success at Sharyland led him to Odessa Junior College where his star only grew. One of them was better than the other because he won a trophy. By the time he graduated from OU, Ancer worked his way to rank second all-time in scoring behind Anthony Kim. He two-putted from just inside 15 feet for a birdie on the 16th, and he had another birdie chance from about that range on the 18th that would have tied the course record.
It required a major performance down the scary stretch at the TPC Sawgrass.
The one bogey he made stood out for two reasons.
Rory McIlroy has slammed the PGA Tour for allowing too much time between shots, saying that the situation is fast becoming an "epidemic".
England's Eddie Pepperell scored a final-round 66 to tie for third a further shot back.
The four-time major victor recovered from a double-bogey six at the fourth to card a 70 and finish on 16 under, one stroke ahead of Jim Furyk, securing his first PGA Tour win since the Arnold Palmer Invitational 365 days ago. Tied for the lead, he was in a bunker, 220 yards away, partially blocked by trees on the par-5 11th when he chose to go for the green. Then it was a matter of navigating two treacherous tee shots with water lurking at the 17th and 18th holes. With water and certain death left, the bailout is the right trees, where there aren't many pars to be made. He made eagle on the 16th to have a fleeting chance until coming up short of the island.