Meet the new boss…

The numbers are the thing: At 22 years and 43 weeks, Rory McIlroy has become the world number one – and he did it holding off a charge from one of the very best there ever was.

He won the Honda Classic by two shots from Tiger Woods, and capped a rise to the top that was predicted early in his career – but predictions like that about players have been made and turned to ashes in the mouths of those who made them.

This time, even the kinds of implosions that have marred the careers of others who were pretenders to the throne could not hold McIlroy back: He turned the horrendous collapse in the final round of the Masters last year into a runaway triumph at the US Open and he has marched purposefully forward ever since until he reached the top of the pile.

And, as good as the three men who held the number one spot in the wake of the demise of Tiger Woods were – Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald are all good enough to get back to number one again – there was always a sense that they were caretakers.

McIlroy has ascended with a major to his credit already – something of which the other three could not boast.

And he has the respect and admiration of the other players. While Graeme McDowell might be dismissed as an Irish praise singer, his opinion as a US Open champion himself is valuable: “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen tee-to-green, period,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger early to mid-2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best – he’s the best player I’ve ever seen.”

And with typical English understatement, Westwood evaluated him thus: “He’s a very good player, very young, still learning, got most of the shots. I think he’s got a fairly bright future.”

Woods pointed out that there would be a wider acceptance of McIlroy’s ranking than there was of his three predecessors: “He’s got a major championship. From what I’ve heard, a lot of people are saying, ‘How can you be number one without ever winning a major?’

“Being consistent. That’s just the way the points are deemed. That’s just how they are done. That’s how Westy got there, he was consistent, day-in and day-out. I think Rory has had, what, one finish out of the top-10 I think it was in the last 10 starts or something like that. So that’s pretty impressive playing. That’s what you have to do. You’re not going to win every time you tee it up, but you can be consistent, you can be close and in the hunt and that’s what he’s done,” he said.

And his own assessment? “Phil Mickelson has won 40 PGA Tour tournaments and four majors, and Tiger has won 14 and 70 Tour events, and here is me sitting with my third PGA Tour win; so it’s a little different. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to get to the stature of those two guys.”

22:07:07 1st Ranking Point T42 Open Champ as Am. 865 18y 12w
10:09:07 1st Pro Ranking Point 3rd Alfred Dunhill Links 308 18y 18w
27:01:08 Into OWGR Top-200 T11 Qatar Masters 190 18y 38w
19:10:08 Into OWGR Top-100 T10 Portugal Masters 91 19y 24w
23:11:08 Into OWGR Top-50 T2 Hong Kong Open 50 19y 29w
01:02:09 Into OWGR Top-20 Win Dubai Desert Classic 16 19y 39w
22:11:09 Into OWGR Top-10 3rd Dubai World Champ. 10 20y 30w
04:03:12 To World No.1 Win Honda Classic 1 22y 43w
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