Golf, and all the complexities that come with thwacking at a stationary ba’, can be full of chin-stroking analysis, elaborate examination, deep-thinking dissection and educated exploration.

With this in mind, then, one assumes that Rory McIlroy and his coach, Pete Cowen, enjoy the kind of erudite, high-brow chin-wags that used to be the reserve of an ancient Greek symposium. Then again? 

“He would probably tell you that I’m s***,” chortled McIlroy of Cowen’s straight-talking summaries. “I think that’s the great thing about Pete, he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He’ll tell me when it’s not great so that when he does give me a compliment, I know that it’s real.”

McIlroy has arrived at The Renaissance for this week’s abrdn Scottish Open on the back of a largely hum-drum outing at the Irish Open which may have had the aforementioned Cowen spouting more curses than compliments.

On the final day, for instance, McIlroy took out the driver 11 times and didn’t find a single fairway as he left Mount Juliet with plenty to ponder and plenty of work to do on his game.

The 32-year-old had originally planned to take this week off ahead of The Open Championship in deepest Kent but he added the Scottish event to his schedule and he’s hoping to see some fruits of his labours.

“I’m not here against my will,” said McIlroy, who wasn’t particularly complimentary about the test provided by The Renaissance on his last visit here back in 2019.

“It made sense to play here rather than go down to London for a week and sort of prepare down there. It’s important that I play. I was pretty rusty last week in Ireland. I didn’t really do any practice the week after the US Open and it sort of showed in my game so it’s been nice to link back up with Pete who is here and work on some stuff the last couple days.”

As for the examination provided by The Renaissance? Well, not that long ago, the course resembled a yellow brick road after a dry, sun-soaked spell which had left it playing as fast as a Buddy Rich drum solo.

The subsequent downpours unleashed by that pesky old Mother Nature in recent days, however, has been the equivalent of putting speed bumps on the fairways.

McIlroy, who lamented that the course was ‘too easy’ a couple of years ago, is still relishing the challenge, though.

“Players will get punished more for wayward shots (than in 2019), which is what you’re looking for,” added the world No 11, who posted a 13-under tally back in the 2019 event but finished down in a share of 34th and nine shots outside the play-off for the title. 

“You want to be challenged a bit. Yes, it would have been great to play it fast and firm, but it's just so out of anyone's control. It's obviously soft just from all the rain the last couple of days. But it's a good test. It's a bit longer and the rough's up a bit more than it probably was the last time.”

While the $8m Scottish Open more than stands on its own two feet as a championship, you can never escape The Open lurking round the corner.

A decade ago, McIlroy arrived at Royal St George’s on the back of a record-busting romp at the US Open but the rain and wind on the Kent coast scuppered all ambitions of a transatlantic double. “I remember grinding my ass off for 13 holes on Saturday morning with my rain jacket on,” he reflected. “The weather started to clear up on the 14th tee. I took my rain jacket off and proceeded to hit one out-of-bounds. That was sort of it for me.”

It wasn’t to be for McIlroy in 2011 but it certainly was for his fellow Northern Irishman, Darren Clarke, who won his maiden major title at the age of 42. As McIlroy continues to work on his swing and wrestle with inconsistency, he is well aware that, in this fickle game, the spark is never that far away.

“I remember I played a practise round with Darren (at the 2011 Open) and he didn’t look like he was anywhere near winning the tournament,” recalled the four-time major winner. “But that’s the great thing about golf. You never know.”

Come Sunday night, McIlroy may have gone from ‘s***’ to superb.