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So, how bothered is Rory McIlroy at losing World No1 golf ranking?

By Deric Henderson

Published 18/08/2015

Rory McIlroy dropped to world number two in the rankings
Rory McIlroy dropped to world number two in the rankings

Who'd have believed it? Just six weeks after rupturing ligaments in his left ankle, Rory McIlroy challenged one of the world's toughest courses - Whistling Straits with its 1000-plus bunkers - and finished in 17th place at the US PGA at nine-under par.

So much for the cynics - myself included - who questioned the wisdom of him returning to competitive action so quickly, but Rory is Rory who goes about his business in his own inimitable style. That's what makes him so special.

Not for the first time he conceded the world No 1 spot, this time to Jordan Spieth, another remarkable young player with a glorious future and who was always destined to give McIlroy a run for his money.

The era of Tiger Woods, who dominated this sport for so long, has well and truly passed, and a year ago when it looked as if our man was the one they all had to beat, along comes this modest American to win two majors this season, as well as finishing runner-up in the the last of the four big championships for 2015.

McIlroy will be disappointed but far from dejected, and he left the steep, sandy slopes on the shores of Lake Michigan, still fit and upright, and wise enough to know that this is simply another stop off point of an incredible journey.

Another day, another tournament.

This was a tough examination of his physical and mental well-being and he seems to have emerged in great shape. His faith in that ability to strike a ball like no one else and at the same time sweep away any lingering doubts about him being in the good place, has been restored.

He was asked if regaining the top spot would give him extra motivation.

The reply was classic Rory. "Not really," he answered. "I've always said that winning golf tournaments takes care of all that stuff.

"Right now I'm focused on just getting my game the way I think it has to be to win tournaments like this."

Hopefully that left ankle upon which his game relies so heavily, will never swell again and forget all the nonsense - however well intentioned - that he should stick to golf and stop larking around with his mates back home.

McIlroy loves his free time with those guys in north Down and Belfast, and even when he couldn't make The Open after injuring himself in that five-a-side at Stormont on American Independence Day, he made sure the arrangements which were in place for his arrival at St Andrews, were quickly made available to that coterie of friends whose companionship and loyalty he seriously values.

He sat with his feet up in front of the television while they, by all accounts, had a ball over in Scotland.

Mcllroy has won four major titles - the US PGA twice, the US Open and The Open - but the US Masters and with it the famous green blazer remains a box he has yet to tick.

But rest assured, preparations for those four days amid the splendour of towering pine trees and pink azaleas in Georgia next April, are already part of his thought process.

This will be his next big date on the calendar and it won't matter a row of beans if he goes there top of the pile, or just one of the boys.

After his horrible collapse four years ago when he seemed to have it all but won going into the final round, McIlroy has an old score to settle.

Augusta owes him one.

He is taking more time out and will not play again until the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston which begins on September 4.

There is no doubt he could have done without that unscheduled lay-off, especially when the level of expectation was so high among the tens of thousands who monitor his every move.

Having the likes of Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler around to tee-up is fine and well, but a championship without McIlory somehow doesn't have the same wow factor.

Just ask those to pay top dollar of have his name on their company logos or the men who sit in the TV commentary boxes on both sides of the Atlantic.

It was there for all to see at the Irish Open at Royal County Down a few months ago where he failed to make the cut for the final two days.

But 72 holes at Whistling Straits, coming off the back of three or four practice rounds confirmed McIlroy is definitely back.

Spieth is a fantastic golfer who came within shouting distance of making history by winning the four majors this year, and McIlroy who acknowledged those achievements in typically magnanimous fashion, will have to draw heavily on everything he possesses to shift him.

He confounded many by his speedy return from injury but after a total of 93 weeks at No 1 at various times, there is no reason why he should be in any particular hurry to overtake his big rival. Even if it means having to wait until the Masters next Spring.

Deric Henderson is the former Ireland Editor of the Press Association, the national news agency for the UK and Ireland who now runs his own consultancy business, Deric Henderson Media.

Jordan Spieth has replaced Rory McIlroy as world number one after finishing second to Jason Day in the US PGA Championship.

McIlroy finished 17th at Whistling Straits on his return to action following the ankle injury which kept him out of the Open and Bridgestone Invitational, two tournaments he won last year.

And that meant Spieth became the second youngest player after Tiger Woods to top the rankings, despite being unable to claim a record-equalling third major title in one season.

Day's first major title lifts him from fifth to third and means the world's top three are aged 22, 26 and 27 respectively.

Latest leading positions and points average: 1 Jordan Spieth (USA) 12.47, 2 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 12.24, 3 Jason Day (Aus) 9.40, 4 Bubba Watson (USA) 8.24, 5 Justin Rose (Eng) 7.16, 6 Jim Furyk (USA) 6.89, 7 Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.79, 8 Rickie Fowler (USA) 6.75, 9 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 6.02, 10 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 5.47, 11 Zach Johnson (USA) 4.88, 12 Adam Scott (Aus) 4.88, 13 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 4.79, 14 Jimmy Walker (USA) 4.62, 15 Matt Kuchar (USA) 4.43, 16 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 4.26, 17 Brooks Koepka (USA) 4.22, 18 Patrick Reed (USA) 4.08, 19 JB Holmes (USA) 4.05, 20 Branden Grace (Rsa) 3.94

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