Mahan tips McIlroy for top spot
Hunter Mahan rates Rory McIlroy "the best player in the world right now for sure" - but it is the American who has won the first world championship of the year and Luke Donald who still tops the rankings for one more week at least.
Having lived up to the billing in the way he beat Lee Westwood in the semi-finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, McIlroy still needed to beat Mahan to take the number one spot.
The 22-year-old played the last seven holes of the match in five-under-par with an eagle and three birdies, but that all came after he had three bogeys and a double-bogey in a front-nine 39 and it added up to a 2&1 defeat.
"I just left myself too much to do," said Northern Ireland's US Open champion, whose next chance to dethrone Donald comes in this week's Honda Classic in Florida. "It wasn't to be, but I didn't have my best game with me this week."
There was still plenty to admire, though, and given that they used to be stablemates he took extra pleasure in getting the better of Westwood, who finished the event with double defeat after also losing the third-place play-off to Mahan's compatriot Mark Wilson.
Westwood led McIlroy by three after four, but the youngster hit back with six birdies in eight holes and won 3&1.
"I'm happy with how I'm playing and hopefully it won't be long before I'm winning again," added McIlroy. "I've got two more tournaments before The Masters, and that's what I'm building up to."
Mahan was delighted with his tournament success and said: "It feels good. I didn't realise how difficult it is to win this week because it is six matches and you're playing against the best players in the world."
And he believes McIlroy is destined to top the rankings sooner or later, joking: "Deep down I wanted to postpone that crowning of the number one player in the world for Rory.
"He'll get there. He's phenomenal, he's really talented. He'll be number one eventually."