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McIlroy can show quality field just why he's a No.1 hit



On top: Rory McIlroy is World No.1 for the first time since September 2015

On top: Rory McIlroy is World No.1 for the first time since September 2015

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Leona Maguire

Leona Maguire

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

On top: Rory McIlroy is World No.1 for the first time since September 2015

Rory McIlroy has a chance to add a little sparkle to his World No.1 crown by making a major statement in this week's Genesis Invitational in Tinseltown.

He's back at golf's summit riding a wave of brilliance that would be the envy of the Swiss railways, eight years after dismissing clockwork-like consistency as golf's most overrated commodity.

The Holywood star overtook Brooks Koepka at No.1 in the world rankings yesterday despite not having won a Major for exactly five and a half years.

"I don't care if I miss 10 cuts in a row if I win a Major a year," McIlroy said when he was going through the doldrums with his new Nike clubs in 2013.

"Of course, it's not good for your confidence if you're missing 10 cuts in a row. But when people look back on a career, they don't remember the low points."

McIlroy would go on to prove his doubters wrong by winning two Majors in 2014, and while it's been a barren spell for him in the world's biggest events for more than five years, he's achieved such a high level of consistency that he has the tools to make Koepka regret his dismissive comments on his threat level as a Major rival last October.

"I've been out here for, what, five years," Koepka said in South Korea. "Rory hasn't won a Major since I've been on the PGA Tour."

Since he uttered those words, McIlroy has taken his winning tally over the past two years to five and picked up another three top-five finishes, gradually building his confidence for the game's ultimate chess match at Augusta National in 59 days' time.

He proved he could play that style of golf at Sawgrass last year, but winning the Genesis Invitational around the famed Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles this week in his first appearance as World No.1 since September 2015 would see him follow in some vaunted footsteps.

Not only would he be emulating career Grand Slam winner Ben Hogan, but he would also be doing something that not even tournament host Tiger Woods has achieved.

The Masters champion is still waiting for his first "home" win at the venue where he made his first appearance in a professional event in 1992 and would love nothing better than to clinch a record 83rd PGA Tour win on home soil in Pacific Palisades.

But the 15-time Major winner faces a huge task this week, not just from McIlroy but a stacked field featuring nine of the world's top 10 with Koepka, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose all teeing it up.

Jordan Spieth is also in action having moved from 55th to 49th in the world thanks to his tie for ninth in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where Canadian Nick Taylor held off Kevin Streelman and Phil Mickelson to win for the first time in six years.

As a result, Spieth clinches his place on next week's WGC Mexico Championship where McIlroy will be joined by Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, who also remained in the world's top 50 at 47th despite missing the cut at Pebble Beach.

McDowell is taking this week off after a three-week run, but Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow are back in action at the LPGA Tour's ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open at Royal Adelaide.

Maguire took a huge step forward in what is her rookie season on the LPGA Tour by finishing tied for fourth, a shot outside a three-way play-off, in the ISPS Handa Vic Open on Sunday.

Jordanstown ace Meadow was disappointed to slip to tied 20th, but she'll be looking forward to attempting to improve on last year's tie for 68th behind Nelly Korda.

Maguire will remain in Australia for next week's Australian Ladies' Classic Bonville on the Ladies' European Tour.

However, the LPGA Tour has cancelled the Honda LPGA Thailand (February 20-23) and the HSBC Women's World Championship (February 27-March 1) in Singapore due to the continued health concerns as a result of the coronavirus.

There is no European Tour event this week, but Robin Dawson, Gavin Moynihan and Niall Kearney continue their Challenge Tour seasons in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt.

Belfast Telegraph