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Friday, February 26, 2021

McIlroy drops to lowest ranking in two years ahead of WGC

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Rory McIlroy heads into this week’s WGC event having fallen to his lowest World Ranking in two years as victorious Versailles team-mate Francesco Molinari clawed his way back up the standings.

McIlroy has dropped to World No. 8 after missing the halfway cut in last week’s Genesis Invitational. The last occasion he was No.8 in the world was in teeing-up in the same WGC event in 2019 while it will be eight months this week when McIlroy last sat atop of the rankings.

This week’s ‘WGC – Workday at the Concession’ will also mark McIlroy’s 12th start in what was formerly known as the Cadillac Championship and for the past four years, the WGC – Mexico Championship but has moved this year to Bradenton on the Florida west coast over Covid-19 fears in taking the $10.5m event to Mexico City. McIlroy’s best result in the event has been a second and two thirds.

Joining McIlroy will be fellow Irishman Shane Lowry teeing-up as World No.39 after dropping a place in not competing last week at Riviera. It is only Lowry’s fifth appearance in the opening WGC of a new season with a best finish of T17th in 2015.

It’s no understatement that the next seven weeks are massive in Lowry’s goal to get at least one foot on the European Ryder Cup team flight later this year. The Clara star will tee-up in two WGCs, the Players, the Arnold Palmer and the Honda Classic ahead of arriving at the front gates of Augusta National on April 8th.

He remains 10 places outside the leading four who will qualify for Padraig Harrington’s team on the ‘World’ points list and a distant 32 spots back from the leading four on the ‘European’ point list.

One of the biggest European movers post last week’s Genesis Invitational was Molinari who jumped 23 spots to be now 31st on the ‘World’ table on the back of his T8th finish on his now ‘home’ Riviera course. After a dismal spell of more than two years since being crowned 2018 European No.1, the Italian has now recorded three top-10s in his past four starts.

Molinari jumped 22 places to go back to World No. 85 following a career high of No. 6 in the world in winning the 2018 Open Championship. But while Lowry and Molinari fight to make the 2021 European Team, Steve Stricker’s side only gets stronger with Tony Finau now into the top-six automatic USA team qualifiers on the back of his play-off loss last Sunday.

Stricker’s top-6 are among the leading top-15 on the World Rankings while 10 Americans hold down the top-15 on the rankings still headed by Dustin Johnson at No.1 with Finau now at World No. 15.

And after Finau’s 21st top-five since the start of the 2016/17 season, he spoke of his opportunities in the coming weeks that will no doubt boost the 31-year old’s chances of retaining his place in the Stars-and-Stripes side.

“I’ve got next week, I’ve got WGC coming up and then The Players Championship. My game’s in a great place going into some big events,” he said. “Again, it’s bittersweet right now, I probably haven’t wrapped my head around quite what just happened, but at the end of the day I know how good of golf I’m playing and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”

IRISH WORLD RANKINGS – Week 8 of 2021

  • No. 8 – Rory McIlroy (Down 1)
  • No. 39 – Shane Lowry (Down 1)
  • No. 101 – Graeme McDowell (Down 4)
  • No. 245 – Padraig Harrington (Down 1)
  • No. 342 – Jonathan Caldwell (Down 3)
  • No. 360 – Cormac Sharvin (Down 2)
  • No. 452 – Seamus Power (Down 6)
  • No. 822 – Gavin Moynihan (Up 3)
  • No. 847 – Paul Dunne (Down 16)

Tune into this weeks Podcast for an insight into the big changes Rory is making

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