McIlroy Smokin’ Driver at Seminole ahead of possible World No. 1 return in Mexico City
After starting his week with a six-birdie blitz at Seminole, Rory McIlroy could climb back to the dizzy heights of World No. 1 in Mexico City. The current World No. 3 would return to the top of the rankings with victory in the WGC – Mexico Championship but needs the game’s current top-ranked Dustin Johnson to finish in a two-way tie for third or worse.
McIlroy’s goal will be helped by World No. 2 Jason Day sitting out this week’s $US 9.75m event due to a double ear infection.
It’s been 528 days since McIlroy was last World No. 1 and that was ahead of teeing-up in the 2015 PGA Championship and losing the title to Day when he finished 17th at Whistling Straits.
The Northern Irishman suffered a rib injury at the BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni as he lost a play-off to Graeme Storm and has since missed seven weeks of action.
In that time Dustin Johnson has moved to number one in the Official World Golf Ranking while rivals Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth have both also claimed wins.
Add that to victories for Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas that have moved them into the top ten, and it has been a frustrating few weeks for the four-time Major Championship winner.
He is hoping to channel that frustration into a good performance at an event where he has five top ten finishes in his last six appearances, and insists he is completely recovered from his injury at Chapultepec Golf Club.
“I’m actually, if anything, swinging it faster than I was before that injury because there was a little bit of tiredness,” McIlroy said. “I think I tested a lot of clubs in the off-season and I made a lot of swings and I think everything just got a little bit tired, muscles stiffened up.”
“I didn’t really want to work as hard any more, the joints stiffened up and then the rib had nothing to move it so that’s what happened. I feel like I’m probably stronger now than I was in say November, December last year. Hopefully it’s a blessing in disguise.”
“It’s been tough to miss all these weeks especially with DJ winning, Jordan winning, Rickie winning, Hideki winning, Justin winning. It’s tough to be sitting at home watching those guys doing what they’re doing and you can’t be out there.”
McIlroy may not have hit a ball in anger for 44 days due to his injury but he can reclaim top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win this week if Johnson finishes in a two-way tie for third or worse.
And after not being in that position for 528 days, the 27 year old would like to once again feel the confidence boost that being World Number One brings.
“I don’t think we make too big a deal of it,” he said. “Whenever you’re ranked Number One in the world at something, it’s a pretty big deal. I think for the guys out here, for me and for a lot of guys, it’s an ego thing. It’s nice to be in that position.”
“It’s not as if I earn any more money as the World Number One, it’s just nice to be able to say you’re the best in the world at what you do. The World Rankings are a by-product of how you play week-in, week-out trying to win golf tournaments.”
“It’s going to be quite volatile. There’s a lot of guys up there around the Number One spot in the world. It would be nice to get on a run like I did in 2014 and separate myself from the rest of the guys and I’m sure all the guys are thinking the same thing.”
American Smylie Kaufman, who was in McIlroy’s four-ball on Monday, said the Ulsterman was ‘smoking’ his driver as evident when he hit a booming drive of some 390-yards downwind at the 405-yard first to just short of the green.
“He was just smoking the driver all day”, said Kaufmann. “His long-game was really good but his short-game was exceptional.”
It’s all set up for a big showdown in Mexico.