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Rory McIlroy returns to world number one as Graeme McDowell remains in top 50 to unlock another invite

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Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

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Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy is back at the top of the world golf rankings for the first time since September 2015.

As reported by the Belfast Telegraph last week, the Holywood star had been certain to leapfrog Brooks Koepka despite neither player teeing it up at the weekend's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

That's because the world ranking points are calculated on a two-year rolling period, with those gained from the most recent 13 weeks contributing their full value before being reduced in equal increments over the remaining 91 weeks. Each player's final figure is then calculated by taking an average points total per tournaments played.

McIlroy edges clear for his 96th week as world number one, just one week behind Nick Faldo and fourth on the all-time list, also behind Greg Norman (331 weeks) and Tiger Woods (683).

Before his first event of the year at last month's Farmers Insurance Open, McIlroy spoke of his rise from eighth in the world at the start of 2019.

“I didn’t know I was going to get a chance this early, but (returning to world number one) has been a goal of mine for a while,” the 30-year-old said.

“Winning four times last year, I closed the gap a little. There was a point in the middle of last year where I was four ranking points behind Brooks, which is a big gap.

“So it wasn’t on the radar when I was flying back from Ireland after the Open, but then, once I’d won the Tour Championship and then won again in China, I kind of saw that gap closing. Then it sort of became, ‘Huh, I’m actually close’. We all have egos out here and it would be great to get back there.”

McIlroy will tee it up alongside Tiger Woods at The Genesis Invitational this week.

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell has maintained his 47th position despite missing the cut at Pebble Beach.

That means the 40-year-old has secured his place at next week's WGC Mexico Championship - his first appearance at a World Golf Championship event since 2016.

He was already assured of a place at The Players' Championship next month and this summer's WGC St Jude Invitational.

Next on his wish-list will be spot at the WGC Match Play, for which he must be inside the world's top 64 on March 16, and the Masters, which requires a top 50 place on March 30.

Belfast Telegraph