Rory McIlroy’s ascent to World Number One is not only a significant milestone in the Northern Irishman’s already glittering career, it continues the dominance of Europeans at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Since England’s Lee Westwood ended Tiger Woods’ 281-week reign on 31 October 2010, the top spot has been in the hands of European players, with Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Englishman Luke Donald and now McIlroy all enjoying spells at the summit of the sport.
It goes hand in hand with a remarkably successful two-year spell for European Tour Members, during which time there have been Major victories for Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and the man of the moment himself, McIlroy.
Westwood set the ball rolling in late 2010 when Woods finally fell from the place he had occupied for more than five years, and he stayed there until Kaymer reached the final of the WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship, a few weeks after he won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship for the third time in four years.
Westwood reclaimed the top spot in late April, but it was Donald who deservedly held the title for most of last year, enjoying the finest season of his career as he won four times to become the first player to top the money lists both both The European and the US PGA Tours in the same season
The 34 year old had taken over from Westwood after a dramatic final day in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in May, where the duo went head-to-head in a play-off for the title and with it the World Number One position.
Donald triumphed and put a stranglehold on the Number One title for 40 weeks, although lately he would have been conscious of McIlroy and Westwood creeping up behind him with their impressively consistent form.
Both men had the chance to reach pole position with victory in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship the previous week, but they came up just short, McIlroy beating Westwood in the semi-finals before losing to American Hunter Mahan in the final.
The 22 year old did not pass up the opportunity at the second time of asking, however, and, needing nothing less than victory in the US PGA Tour’s Honda Classic to do so, withstood a charging Tiger Woods to close out a brilliant victory.
European players have also occupied the top four positions in the Official World Golf Ranking since early November last year, when Kaymer moved back up to Number Four following his victory in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
The quartet of Donald, Kaymer, McIlroy and Westwood dominated the top four for spells last year, in several combinations, and McDowell also joined them at one stage in March, reaching a career-high fourth.
No doubt those players trailing McIlroy will be out to cut short his reign in this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship, but the 2011 US Open Champion is in no mood to give up his title any time soon.
“I'd like to stay there for a while,” he said. “As long as I keep playing good golf and have chances to win tournaments, then hopefully I'll stay up there.
“I feel the way I'm playing at the minute and with the level of consistency, hopefully I'm going to be able to stay there for a while.”