Doral, Florida. Rory McIlroy only grabbed top spot in the world golf rankings on Sunday, but this week he faces a direct challenge from the two men who could limit his reign to just seven days.
The Northern Irishman is grouped with world No. 3 Luke Donald and No. 3 Lee Westwood in the first two rounds of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Blue Monster course starting on Wednesday (Thursday Jakarta time).
Donald was world No. 1 for 40 weeks until McIlroy overtook him with a victory at the Honda Classic on Sunday while Westwood held the top spot prior to Donald’s ascent. Both could return to the top with a win at Doral.
Players typically play down the importance of the rankings, insisting their focus is purely on winning tournaments, but their grouping is bound to be closely followed.
“I think it adds a little bit of interest. I’m not sure that the players are quite as concerned with it as maybe you guys [the media] or the fans, at least,” Donald said. “But anything that adds to a tournament where the broadcasters can talk about it and add to an event, I think it’s probably a good thing.
“There obviously is some jockeying for position. There isn’t one standout player right now that certainly is what the world rankings would say.”
Westwood chose a characteristically lighthearted approach when asked how tough it was to be top dog.
“There’s nothing hard about being No. 1 in the world, no. If you don’t enjoy that, then you need to take up another sport,” he said. “Me and Luke were talking about it on the putting green today. I said, ‘Oh, morning, No. 2,’ and he looked at me and nodded and said, ‘Yeah, it’s sort of a bit of a relief.’ ”
“He said, ‘There’s only one way to go when you’re No. 1. At least there’s more than one way to go at No. 2.’ ”
McIlroy said he wasn’t feeling any particular pressure now that he was on top.
“It depends what type of mind you have and if you thrive in the spotlight or if you welcome it. I feel like I do thrive in the spotlight, and I like the attention,” he said. “I’d love to keep myself here for a while. But I know that it’s inevitable that I’ll lose it at some point. That’s for sure. I just hope that it’s a little further away.”