McIlroy reaches top of the world after marching past Tiger's trap - Golf - Sport - The Independent

McIlroy reaches top of the world after marching past Tiger's trap

 

Palm Beach Gardens

The greatest doubted him and the other greatest pushed him. But Rory McIlroy became the world No 1 regardless what Jack said or Tiger did. If ever a coronation possessed validity, it was here at the Honda Classic in Florida yesterday.

It says so much about McIlroy's achievement that Woods shot a 62, the lowest final-round of his 16-year career – and it still wasn't enough. When Woods eagled the 18th with one of those classic red-shirted "Tiger moments" for which the game had for so long craved, Nicklaus, in the NBC booth, said: "I would prefer to be in Tiger's position now than Rory's."

In one aspect it made sense as McIlroy was two clear but the infamous "Bear Trap" finale loomed. But, as it proved, it wasn't to make any sense. The 22-year-old survived under the most intense pressure; indeed, he flourished making par saves on the 15th and 17th, before eventually tapping in for a 69 and a 12-under finish. The two-stroke win established him as the second-youngest ever to top the rankings.

"It's fantastic to be able to get the job done and become world No 1," he said, after this third win in his last nine events. "It was tough watching Tiger make the charge but my short-game has been sharp all week and definitely saved me a few times today."

Don't expect any of the queries which surfaced when Lee Westwood and Luke Donald scaled the summit. Woods was honest enough to state the reason why America will accept him as "the best" so readily. "It's pretty evident that of those three names, Rory has won a major," said Woods, boasting his best finish in an "official" event since the sex scandal broke more than two years ago. "But it's all about consistency. Rory's had one finish out of the top-10 in 10 or many starts. For him being No 1 is a testament to how consistent he has been."

It is such an impressive claim to superstardom, but does not begin to do this incredible finale justice. Outside of the majors and the Ryder Cup, this is surely as good as golf ever gets. The boy who would be king claimed the throne with not Woods but also his most obvious of European rivals threatening to yank away his red carpet. Westwood shot a 63 to raise the heat on McIlroy. "Yeah, he's got most of the shots," said Westwood with a smirk, content with coming fourth.

So England does not boast the world No 1 for the first time in more than a year. Nobody, however, would begrudge McIlroy, who has utterly captivated his sport. Imagine someone upstaging Woods shooting a round of eight-under and from hauling himself from nine shots behind to within sniffing distance of victory. Only Rory.

After Woods hit that remarkable 215-yard five-iron to within eight feet, and duly brought the house down, the frenzy instantly moved to Ulsterman. Was this the time to place the crown upon his head, or a question mark above it? Dressed all in white, McIlroy had cut a starling pose on the practice green as it was time to make his way to the first tee. A 90-minute weather suspension had delayed his starting time and with the temperature dropping as the winds rose this would represent the biggest Sunday of his career thus far, outside of the majors. He was given a warning what was coming when he walked up to the fan-lined tunnel up to the fourth tunnel, with Woods on the nearby ninth tee, and someone shouted, "Look out! He's behind you..." Quite.

Only a win would have seen him rise above Donald and, after Woods' two-eagled, six-birdied heroics, there was an overwhelming sense of tension in the air as he approached the "Bear Trap". McIlroy had coped commendable through the first 14 holes, the bogey on the 12th negated with his own eight-footer for a birdie on the 13th, seconds after Tiger's grandstand finish. His lead had been cut to one for an instant. But still, with the entire property shaking, the onus was on McIlroy to show his quality. Boy did he show it, as he has done the last six months.

As Woods alluded, McIlroy has played 11 tournaments and in this spell has recorded two wins, eight other top fives and an 11th-place finish. What happened at the Dubai World Championship where he dared not crack the top 10? McIllroy had dengue fever, that's what. Otherwise the hot flushes have been the preserve of the galleries and the temperature will only continue to rise as the first major beckons in four weeks' time, never mind next week's WGC event in Miami. McIlroy is the man, Donald will be looking to reclaim the mantle again and Westwood, with his putting coming together, feels his time might be nigh.

And Tiger? "It's just a matter of time before I put it together for a whole tournament," he said. Golf can hardly wait. Said Graeme McDowell: "This golf season's just got a lot more spicy."With so much added Tabasco.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week