Rory McIlroy shows great strength to return as golf’s world number one

A fresh-faced McIlroy during his early emergence in the world of golfNorthern Irish golfing superstar Rory McIlroy has returned to the top spot in the golf world rankings for the first time in almost five years. Golf’s complex points system, which calculates the position of the sport’s top players based on recent results and performances, placed McIlroy a full point ahead of American Brooks Koepka who has held the number-one ranking for 38 weeks.

For sure, the 30-year-old may have taken advantage of Koepka’s recent injury issues in the back-end of 2019 due to a troublesome knee problem, but McIlroy has taken full advantage of Koepka’s loss of fitness and form. After Koepka won the PGA Championship in May 2019, he has won just one tournament on the PGA Tour since and only one additional top-ten finish. By contrast, the four-time major winner has been a regular feature towards the top of tournament leaderboards.

Impeccable consistency the key to McIlroy’s world ranking resurgence

For sure, one of the main reasons for McIlroy’s resurgence in world golf has been due to his rock-solid tournament results, securing regular high finishes without winning events outright and capturing the media spotlight too much. Many wondered whether McIlroy’s career was heading for a downward spiral after the Northern Irishman failed to perform at his home Royal Portrush course in The Open last year, missing the cut in heart-breaking circumstances.

Brooks Koepka has struggled for form in recent months

However, following a much-needed period of self-reflection, McIlroy was able to recharge the batteries and hit the courses once again – and hit them he has. Since that ill-fated 2019 Open appearance, McIlroy has only finished lower than sixth place twice in the 11 tournaments he has entered. Self-reflection is something that most skill-based sport professionals should engage in more. It’s important to be self-critical and review flaws or leaks in technique as well as strategies to improve and develop for the long-term.

Even though Brooks Koepka insisted he wasn’t looking in his “rear-view mirror” at the likes of an ever-improving McIlroy, the Northern Irishman has gone about his business with calm precision. His Tour Championship success last September was backed up by victory in the Shanghai World Golf Championships, which well and truly laid down a marker for Koepka and co.

No-one can argue that McIlroy is a streaky golfer any longer

Even after the Christmas season, McIlroy showed no signs of letting up. He featured at Torrey Pines, where he finished tied for third place. It was a result that would prove enough to help him leap-frog Koepka into top spot in the world rankings for February and beyond. Such is his form that it was no surprise to see him rated as the rated as the favourite by the sportsbooks for the currently postponed PGA Championship.

But despite his recent reliability on the courses, McIlroy has found it almost impossible to shed the tag of being a somewhat ‘streaky’ golfer. At face value, you can understand the tag to some extent. After all, it’s been over five years since McIlroy’s last of his four majors. However, you really need to dig a little deeper to realise that McIlroy has been one of the top performers in world golf for over a decade now, despite an inability to build on his major successes.

Since the end of the 2009 season, when McIlroy entered the top ten of the world rankings, the Northern Irishman has dropped no lower than 13th since then. It’s a remarkable feat made even more impressive when you acknowledge that even the likes of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day have dropped to 49th and 38th in the rankings of late. The harsh reality of professional golf is that each tournament can have only one winner, but multiple players can play well each event without getting the silverware they deserve.

A laudable commitment to his body as well as his golf game

Not only is Rory McIlroy a mercurial golf talent, he is also an exceptional athlete too. There is no better proof of McIlroy’s commitment to looking after his body than his recent metrics posted on his Peloton bike. The home-based cycling craze has been adopted by McIlroy, who admitted recent impressive statistics posted via Peloton were attributed to him. The figures showed that McIlroy was capable of riding almost 20 miles on his Peloton bike at an average speed of more than 26mph. It placed him 11th out of the total 9,240 active riders on the Peloton leaderboard.

McIlroy revealed that while he owns a Peloton bike at home, he does his best to hop aboard a Peloton bike two or three times a week when he’s away on tour. McIlroy’s figures have created a sense of competition among professional golfers that use the subscription-based Peloton service. Billy Horschel is one such player from the PGA Tour to try and pit their physical attributes against McIlroy’s figures. Unfortunately for Horschel, he only managed 17 miles at an average speed of 23mph.

McIlroy throws his weight behind the PGA Tour

Despite being one of golf’s box office players, Rory McIlroy has also recently given the PGA Tour a much-needed vote of confidence in the face of a potential Premier Golf League being established. A breakaway circuit has been recently mooted, with a $240 million proposal recently rejected by McIlroy in favour of being “on the right side of history”.

An unknown consortium is reportedly keen to create a new competition format for the sport’s top 48 players in the world rankings, who would compete in an 18-event campaign. Every tournament would feature a highly lucrative $10 million purse, with winners picking up $2 million. McIlroy admits “the more he’s thought about it the more he doesn’t like it”. He prefers the “autonomy and freedom” of the current PGA Tour.

Whether many of McIlroy’s counterparts feel the same remains to be seen, with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose yet to rule out taking part. The consortium will also be holding its breath and hoping the iconic Tiger Woods throws his weight behind the project, but McIlroy believes Woods’ family commitments and the gruelling 18-event schedule proposed may rule him out already. One thing is for sure, McIlroy remains a fantastic ambassador for the traditions of professional golf.