The numbers are the thing: At 22 years and 43 weeks, Rory McIlroy has become the world number one Â 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 Â 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 Â Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald are all good enough to get back to number one again Â there was always a sense that they were caretakers.
McIlroy has ascended with a major to his credit already Â 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: ÂHeÂs the best player IÂve ever seen tee-to-green, period,Â he said. ÂI didnÂt have a chance to play with Tiger early to mid-2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best Â heÂs the best player IÂve ever seen.Â
And with typical English understatement, Westwood evaluated him thus: ÂHeÂs a very good player, very young, still learning, got most of the shots. I think heÂs got a fairly bright future.Â
Woods pointed out that there would be a wider acceptance of McIlroyÂs ranking than there was of his three predecessors: ÂHeÂs got a major championship. From what IÂve heard, a lot of people are saying, ÂHow can you be number one without ever winning a major?Â
ÂBeing consistent. ThatÂs just the way the points are deemed. ThatÂs just how they are done. ThatÂs 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 thatÂs pretty impressive playing. ThatÂs what you have to do. YouÂre not going to win every time you tee it up, but you can be consistent, you can be close and in the hunt and thatÂs what heÂs done,Â he said.
And his own assessment? ÂPhil 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 itÂs a little different. Hopefully one day IÂll be able to get to the stature of those two guys.Â
|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|