The man who stopped Rory McIlroy in his tracks at the World Matchplay is backing the Irishman to lead the world rankings someday soon.

Hunter Mahan denied McIlroy the number one ranking in the world with his two hole victory in Sunday’s WGC final in Tucson.

But Mahan still believes that McIlroy is the top player in the game today and expects the world ratings to reflect that very soon.

“Rory McIlroy is the best player in the world right now for sure,” said Mahan after his victory in the first world championship of the year left Luke Donald on top of the rankings for at least one more week.

McIlroy, likely to be number two when the ratings are released on Monday, had beaten rival Lee Westwood of England in the semis on Sunday morning but couldn’t overcome a poor opening nine against Mahan.

The 22-year-old did play the last seven holes of the match in five under par with an eagle and three birdies but that came after three bogeys and a double-bogey on the front-nine.

“I just left myself too much to do,” said McIlroy who will play in the Honda Classic in Florida this week.

“It wasn’t to be, but I didn’t have my best game with me this week.

“I’m still happy with how I’m playing and hopefully it won’t be long before I’m winning again. I’ve got two more tournaments before The Masters and that’s what I’m building up to.”

New champion Mahan later joked: “Deep down I wanted to postpone that crowning of the number one player in the world for Rory.

“He’ll get there. He’s phenomenal, he’s really talented. He’ll be number one eventually.”

Rory McIlroyGetty