Elite-level sport is about chasing history. It is about milestones. It is about legacy.
Every sport can boast a proud pantheon of greats; immortal beings who set the standard that every future contemporary strives to emulate or surpass.
Some records tumble with regularity. Some records may never be beaten. But they will always exist. They will always be the marker by which others are judged.
No golfer knows this more than Rory McIlroy.
A multiple major winner, a Ryder Cup hero, world number one on several occasions, and a serial winner on the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, there is very little McIlroy has left to achieve in golf.
But his determination to improve, his thirst for even more success and his desire to elevate his own legacy means he will always have something to strive for.
“You’re going to have ebbs and flows in your career but when I look at the bigger picture I’m really happy with my body of work,” said McIlroy, who was named Champion Golfer of the Year in 2014.
“I’m really enthusiastic for the future because I feel like my game and my body is healthy.
“I’m in a good place where I can just focus on my golf for the next decade-plus and give myself more opportunities to win the biggest tournaments in the world.”
A four-time major champion – with one Claret Jug, one US Open and two PGA Championship crowns to his name – the Northern Irishman is just a Green Jacket away from joining a very special group of golfers in completing a career Grand Slam.
Rory McIlroy | My Greatest Shot
Only five men have triumphed in each of golf’s four biggest events. Five all-time greats. Five golfers who will be remembered forever. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player and Ben Hogan.
If McIlroy can add his name to that stellar list it would undoubtedly cement his status as his country’s greatest-ever sportsman.
He added: “When everything’s said and done and I retire from playing tournament golf – whenever that is, in 20 years’ time – I’ll be remembered for the majors and for the big moments.
“I’ve become a much more consistent golfer over the last few years and that will only give me more opportunities to win big tournaments.
“I feel like I’ve still got a lot of those big moments ahead of me.
“I’ve already created quite a few but I feel like my game and my mindset is still on an upward trajectory.
“I feel like there’s still more I can do in this game.”
A precocious talent, McIlroy famously entered the public glare aged 9 by chipping balls into a washing machine on national television.
People in his native County Down quickly became aware of his potential as did the whole of Ireland not long after. McIlroy made good on that promise, and his jaw-dropping 61 at Royal Portrush – an Open Championship venue – as a 16-year-old grabbed the attention of the sporting world.
His ascension had begun.
A first appearance at The Open came at Carnoustie in 2007 when his 42nd-place finish was enough to win the Silver Medal, a prize awarded to the week’s top amateur.
McIlroy tied for third at St Andrews just three years later, helped in no small part by an opening-day 63, his lowest 18-hole tally at The Open. It was the first of six top-five finishes at golf’s original Championship.
Open Greats | Rory McIlroy at The Open
His first major success wasn’t far behind as he claimed victory at the US Open in 2011. By 2014 he had added three more to his collection. Four majors by the age of 26, a feat matched by only Nicklaus and Woods.
And while McIlroy's quest for the hitherto elusive Green Jacket – and more Open titles – continues, it is worth remembering that just 29 men in history have won four majors or more.
McIlroy’s place in golf’s rich history is already secure.
He said: “Whenever someone asks me about my career and how I feel it’s going, I always have to go back to 18-year-old Rory at Carnoustie and I’d say to him ‘In 15 years’ time this is where you’ll be in your career’.
“I would have thought I’d hit the lottery and all my dreams had come true.
“I’m really happy with what I have done. I’m proud of my achievements.
“Are there tournaments I could have won that have slipped through my fingers? Yes. But I feel like I’ve won my fair share.”