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Rory McIlroy drops to worst world ranking in almost two years ahead of return to action at European Tour's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


It's not good news for Rory McIlroy in the latest world rankings update.

It's not good news for Rory McIlroy in the latest world rankings update.

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It's not good news for Rory McIlroy in the latest world rankings update.

Rory McIlroy has dropped three places to his worst world ranking since February 2019.

The 31-year-old is down to seventh after almost two months out of action as McIlroy hasn't played since finishing in a tie for fifth at The Masters in mid-November.

It is perhaps not unexpected, given that the PGA Tour teed-off for 2021 last week with the Sentry Tournament of Champions while McIlroy's break continued.

It was in Hawaii that Xander Schauffele's tied fifth place was enough to jump up to fourth in the rankings, while Collin Morikawa and Bryson De Chambeau's tied seventh spot saw them rise above McIlroy, to fifth and sixth respectively.

It's the Holywood golfer's worst ranking since February 17, 2019, when he was out at number eight. The last time he was outside the world's top five was just a month later on March 10, 2019.

McIlroy will have the chance to put it right when gets back into action next week as the European Tour swings into action for 2021 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

He'll fancy his chances, too, with a history of impressive performances although he has never actually won the tournament, finishing either second or third in seven of his last eight visits.

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It's his first trip to the tournament since 2018 as in the last two seasons he controversially eschewed his normal start to the calender on his native European Tour in favour of starts on the PGA Tour.

It was a strategy that paid off last year in particular as McIlroy began 2020 with four successive fop five finishes and got back to world number one for the first time since September 2015, remaining in top spot over the sport's shutdown until July.

McIlroy will return to the US the following week to play in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Also returning to action in Abu Dhabi next week will be Graeme McDowell, who has risen from 83rd to 81st in the latest world rankings update.

It's a welcome halt to his gradual slide back down the list; his first positive update since going from 53rd to 49th on July 5th last year.

European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington is the latest name to confirm his place in Abu Dhabi, joining fellow major winners Justin Thomas, Martin Kaymer, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett, as well as McIlroy and McDowell.

Also in the field will be world number ten Tyrrell Hatton and 2020 DP World Tour Champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, alongside Ryder Cup heroes Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, victorious 2018 European Captain Thomas Bjørn and defending champion Lee Westwood.

The tournament is the first Rolex Series event of the year, while it restarts he European Points List for players targeting qualification at this year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

There's no change to the top three in the latest world rankings update, with Dustin Johnson ahead of Spaniard Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.