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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before