SIt’s official since Monday: According to the world rankings, Rory McIlroy is again the best golfer in the world. The 33-year-old Northern Irishman not only clinched his 23rd victory on the PGA Tour, the 31st worldwide by successfully defending his title at the CJ Cup in the Congaree Country Club in Ridgeland (South Carolina). “Rors”, as his colleagues call him, made it to number one for the ninth time, only Tiger Woods and the Australian Greg Norman managed to make it to the top more often: eleven times.
Ten years after McIlroy first took the lead and more than two years after he last topped the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), the crowd favorite is finally back where his huge fanbase has long wanted him to be. “I’ve worked so hard over the past 12 months to get back this far,” McIlroy said during the winner’s interview. “I feel like I’m enjoying the game like I’ve never done before. I’ve played with that joy and it’s definitely shown over the past few months.” Helping the new Primus is that American Scottie Scheffler is currently far from the form that brought him four wins earlier this year and to the had led. In Ridgeland, the Texan only tied for 45th place and fell back to second in the OWGR.
Crowd favorite McIlroy had recovered quickly after his bitter defeat at the 150th British Open in St Andrews (Scotland) when he gambled away his fifth Major win on the greens. He won the Tour Championship in Atlanta (Georgia) at the end of August and was the first to win the PGA Tour annual standings, the FedExCup, for the third time, for which he received 18 million dollars (around 18.3 million euros). Even when he appeared on the DP World Tour, which was called the European Tour until last year, he always played for victory. He missed the triumph at the flagship tournament of this tournament series, the BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth (England), by just one or two centimetres, when his eagle putt to draw level with the Irishman Shane Lowry fell short of the hole. After that second place he also played at the Italian Open in Rome, where next year’s Ryder Cup will be held, and at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, but had to settle for fourth place both times.
At the CJ Cup, an invitational tournament for the world’s top players, McIlroy had taken the lead after day three and all seemed set for a duel with Spaniard Jon Rahm, freshly strengthened by his third win at the Spanish Open in Madrid had returned to the PGA Tour and after three days, like the American Kurt Kitayama, was just one shot behind McIlroy. But the Basque, who had led the industry pecking order four times and for a total of 56 weeks, had only brief intervention in the fight for victory and had to settle for fourth place after a final round of 69 shots. In the end, McIlroy and Kitayama, who had gone on the final lap together, won between themselves. McIlroy broke away with three birdies in a row, could even afford two bogeys on the two final holes and still needed a stroke less than his teammate with a total of 267 strokes.
McIlroy already has his next goal in mind. After the FedExCup he also wants to win the annual ranking of the DP World Tour. He is aiming for what only Sweden’s Henrik Stenson had previously managed to do in 2013: to finish the two largest tournament series as the best in one year. McIlroy currently leads the DP World Tour Ranking by a wide margin. McIlroy, who has already won the European rankings three times, will aim to complete that double feat at the final tournament of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on November 17-20.
Yannik Paul from Mannheim is also looking forward to this tournament, in which only the top 50 in the ranking are eligible to start. The 28-year-old from the Palatinate, who has lived in the United States since his college days, only qualified for the first European league last year through the Challenge Tour. On Sunday, on his 26th start on the DP World Tour, he celebrated his first victory at the Mallorca Open, received almost 350,000 euros for it and moved up to 20th place in the annual ranking. “A dream has come true for me,” said Paul, who ended up beating Nicolai von Dellingshausen from Düsseldorf and Paul Waring from England by one stroke. Von Dellingshausen also had reason to celebrate: second place secured his job on the DP World Tour next year.
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