Rory McIlroy is in no rush to give up his new found status as the world’s top golfer – no matter what Tiger Woods or Luke Donald may think about it.
McIlroy will tee it up at the WGC event in Miami this week as the number one ranked player on the planet thanks to last Sunday’s win at the Honda Classic in Florida.
The 22-year-old became the first Irishman to top the rankings and only the second youngest ever, behind Woods, thanks to his brilliance at Palm Beach Gardens.
Now that he has edged past Donald and Lee Westwood to become the best in the business, U.S. Open champion McIlroy wants to stay there.
“I’d like to stay there for a while,” he said. “As long as I keep playing good golf and have chances to win tournaments, then hopefully I’ll stay up there.”
Consistency has been the key of late for the Ryder Cup star who, since last year’s PGA Championship in August, has won two tournaments, finished second four times, third twice and only once finished outside the top five.
McIlroy added, “I feel the way I’m playing at the minute, the level of consistency, hopefully I’m going to be able to stay there for a while.
“It was always a dream of mine to become the world number one and the best player in the world, or whatever you want to call it.
“But I didn’t know I would be able to get here this quickly. Hopefully, I can hold on to it for a little longer.”
McIlroy is still savoring the moment. “It’s very special,” he said. “When I was 10 or 11 I was interviewed and said I wanted to be the best player in the world and I wanted to win majors.”
The praise has been flowing in for McIlroy. Back home in Ulster, his long time coach Michael Bannon said, “Rory has been in the spotlight all his life. He got his tour card so early, he got on the tour, won a tournament so young, won a major so young and now he’s number one in the world and he’s only 22.
“Rory just gets better and better all the time.”
Fellow major winner Graeme McDowell said, “He’s the best player I’ve ever seen. He deserves it. I think he’s the best player on the planet right now.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever seen tee-to-green, period. I didn’t have a chance to play with Tiger early-to-mid-2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best player I’ve ever seen.”
Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny sent his congratulations to McIlroy.
Kenny said, “We congratulate Rory. His achievement shows what is possible when talent and hard work combine.”
BBC golf pundit Jay Townsend, who was involved in a Twitter war with McIlroy last summer said,“He has grown an inner strength.
“He’s always had the ability to hit any shot at any time but he’s got mentally stronger, harnessed the youthful exuberance and he’s playing the right shot at the right time.
“I’ve been critical about his shot selection in the past but I didn’t see any fault this week, he really played like a great player.”
McDowell believes a new found confidence with his putter is the key to McIlroy’s current dominance in the world game.
“That was the missing link, because the rest of his game is all there,” said McDowell.
“As soon as he learned how to putt, he was going to be a dominating force, and you’re starting to see that now.”
McDowell believes the McIlroy win on Sunday – and Tiger’s return to form – will make for a fascinating few weeks ahead of the Masters.
“I’m excited to be part of golf right now,” McDowell said. “It’s great to have Tiger Woods back playing the kind of golf we know he can play, because he’s exciting for the sport.
“But Rory keeps working harder and he has much more belief in himself and he knows what he wants to do now and he knows how to do it.”
JAMES McClean has one eye on the European Championships, but he won’t take anything for granted after bringing the house down on his international debut.
McClean received the loudest cheer of the night when he replaced Aiden McGeady for the final 12 minutes of the 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic.
The Sunderland winger, who only recently switched allegiances from Northern Ireland, would be a popular addition to Trap’s European squad as far as the fans are concerned.
But Giovanni Trapattoni has already indicated that he will go for experience this summer and McClean isn’t going to push the issue.
“That’s not my decision,” he insisted. “That’s the manager’s decision. If I continue to play well for Sunderland, then you never know.”
The 22-year-old was delighted to make his first appearance for Ireland and delighted with the warmth of the reception he received on and off the field.