McIlroy fulfils childhood ambition
Published 05/03/2012 | 08:02
Less than a year since his Masters meltdown - a collapse many people thought would leave long-lasting scars - Rory McIlroy is golf's new world number one.
And the way the 22-year-old held off a charging Tiger Woods to win the Honda Classic in Florida on Sunday night must have a lot of the same people believing he could be there for a long, long time.
"It's very special. When I was 10 or 11 I was interviewed and said I wanted to be the best player in the world and I wanted to win majors," said McIlroy.
Back-to-form Woods has never shot a lower closing round than his 62, but not even a birdie-eagle finish knocked the Northern Ireland off his stride to glory.
Nothing less than victory was going to be good enough to end Luke Donald's nine-month reign and, with Woods in the clubhouse one behind, McIlroy birdied the 13th, twice got up and down from bunkers on danger holes and parred in for a fabulous two-shot win.
The Holywood golfer becomes the second youngest world number one since the rankings were introduced in 1986. Woods was a year younger when he first got there at the 1997 US Open.
He achieved the second of those targets at the US Open last June only two months after his traumatic 80 at Augusta. Now he has achieved the first of them as well a month before he returns to The Masters to try to take his revenge.
McIlroy, with his parents on hand to witness his third PGA Tour win, said: "It was tough today, especially seeing Tiger make a charge. I knew par golf would probably be good enough and that's what I was trying to do, so to shoot one under is very nice and I was able to get the job done.
"My short game all week has been very good and it's what you need on a tough course like this. You know you are not going to hit every green."
And he immediately targeted a long stay at the summit, saying: "I'd like to stay there for a while. As long as I keep playing good golf and have chances to win tournaments, then hopefully I'll stay up there. I feel the way I'm playing at the minute, the level of consistency, hopefully I'm going to be able to stay there for a while."