With two major championships in his hip pocket this year, Rory McIlroy has skyrocketed to the No. 1 position in the Official World Golf Rankings, which has been kept since April 6, 1986.
The first No. 1 in the world, by the way, was West Germany’s Bernhard Langer. It was so long ago that his country doesn’t even exist now.
McIlroy has been No. 1 five different times for a total of 41 weeks. He has a long way to go, obviously, to catch the all-time leader at No. 1, Tiger Woods. Woods has a total of 683
weeks, just over 13 years, in the top spot. Now you have to wonder if he’ll ever get there again as his game, and his body, are showing deterioration.
McIlroy is definitely the flavor of the moment, having just won the PGA Championship on Sunday to go with the Open Championship he captured in July. He’ll attempt to win his third major in a row next April at the Masters in Augusta, Ga. I think we’ll probably all be watching.
Only 17 players have held the No. 1 spot, mostly because Woods has been such a No. 1 hog. He has streaks of 264 and 281 weeks atop the rankings and has been No. 1 on 11 different occasions.
Next best is Australia’s Greg Norman, who spent 331 weeks at No. 1 during 11 times in the top spot. Nobody else has more than Nick Faldo’s 97 weeks. And Tom Lehman has just one week at No. 1, from April 20 until April 26 in 1987. It was the best week of his life.
How many weeks in the top spot will McIlroy accumulate. He’s only 25 and seems to have taken his game to a higher level. And he was already pretty high, as his two major championships before the past couple of months indicate.
With Woods seemingly out of the picture – yes, I suppose he could still surprise us with another rise to No. 1 – it appears McIlroy is head and shoulders above the rest. Not that others aren’t capable of unseating him, but the guess here is that McIlroy is in for a long run at No. 1. Perhaps not one that approaches Woods’ dominance, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see McIlroy settle in for a year or more.
Who is even in position to challenge him?
Adam Scott, who has spent 11 weeks at No. 1 previously, is currently ranked No. 2. He’s a fantastic player and could rise to No. 1 again, certainly. Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day round out the top 10. Woods is 11th followed by Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
Of those names, Scott and Spieth seem like the biggest threats to McIlroy’s reign at No. 1. But after a fast start to the 2014 season, Spieth has struggled. He tied for second at the Masters, then tied for 17th at the U.S. Open, 36th at the Open Championship and 117th at the PGA.
McIlroy has battled inconsistency, too, but seems to have risen above it. And he looks to have the mental capacity to withstand challenges that will come his way.
Here’s the list of all-time No. 1 players with how many weeks they’ve been in the top spot:
Tiger Woods, United States, 683
Greg Norman, Australia, 331
Nick Faldo, England, 97
Seve Ballesteros, Spain, 61
Luke Donald, England, 56
Ian Woosnam, Wales, 50
Nick Price, Zimbabwe, 44
Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland, 41
Vijay Singh, Fiji, 32
Lee Westwood, England, 22
Fred Couples, United States, 16
David Duval, United States, 15
Adam Scott, Australia, 11
Ernie Els, South Africa, 9
Martin Kaymer, Germany, 8
Bernhard Langer, Germany, 3
Tom Lehman, United States, 1
Now by country:
United States 715
Northern Ireland 41
South Africa 9