Will Rory McIlroy’s Big Finale to 2022 Include Being No. 1 Again?

Rory McIlroy, THE CJ CUP, South Carolina,(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy, THE CJ CUP, South Carolina,(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Rory McIlroy is one of the most popular golfers in the world, literally. He has always played in a variety of countries on several continents, winning nearly everywhere golf is played.

To date, Rory McIlroy has won in Ireland, England, Dubai, UAE, Australia, Canada, China, and 22 times on the PGA Tour, most of which were in the U.S.  He’s won the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup both three times.

Now he has a chance to reclaim his spot as World No. 1 with a victory at the CJ Cup this week, depending on where Scottie Scheffler finishes.

Rory McIlroy has already been No. 1 for 109 weeks, making him fourth on the list of players who have had that crown. Two of the three ahead of him will be a challenge to reach. Tiger Woods, at 683 weeks, may be uncatchable. Then, in second, is Greg Norman at 331 weeks.  Third is Dustin Johnson with 139. DJ’s number is within McIlroy’s grasp, perhaps this year, depending on how he plays and whether he is able to retake the No.1 slot.

"“You’ve got a bulls-eye on your back. You’ve got to work harder. Everyone’s coming after you.” – Rory McIlroy"

“I’ve put myself in a nice position to try to get back to No. 1 in the world,” Rory McIlroy said to media before the CJ Cup.

The first time he achieved it was after he won the Honda Classic in 2012.

“It had been a goal of mine for maybe six months up until that point,” he noted adding that it was the year after he won the U.S. Open.

He was surprised that he didn’t feel different after the victory.

“I remember waking up the next morning and being like, is this it?” he recalled.

"“You know, you sort of, you work towards a goal for so long and then you wake up the next day and you don’t feel any different after having achieved it.”"

Then Rory McIlroy adjusted his thinking and redefined what success was going to be for him.

"“I think that’s one of the great things about this game.  No matter how much you’ve achieved or how much success you’ve had, you always want to do something else.”"

While it’s a blessing to get to No. 1 in the world, it’s also a curse. Anyone who reaches that lofty platform has to work just as hard to stay there.  After getting to No. 1, McIlroy was overtaken by Luke Donald two weeks later.

He and Donald traded being in the number one spot four times before McIlroy nabbed it and held on for 32 weeks, then lost it to Tiger Woods and Adam Scott for two years.

However, McIlroy fought back and hung on for 54 weeks on his own before trading it back and forth with both Jordan Spieth and Jason Day before finally losing the top spot again for four years until he took it away from Brooks Koepka in 2020 and held on for another 11 weeks, losing it to Jon Rahm in July of 2020.

All this proves, as Rory McIlroy said, once you earn it, it’s still hard to keep it.

“You’ve got a bulls-eye on your back. You’ve got to work harder. Everyone’s coming after you,” McIlroy said about being No. 1.

With all the back and forth between players at No. 1, McIlroy has held the spot eight times already.  Greg Norman was No. 1 on 11 different occasions as was Tiger Woods.  No one else is in double digits.

The tricky part about being No. 1, according to McIlroy, is time management because more people want interviews, and more people ask him to do things. Luckily, at this juncture, both his business and personal life are settled.  He knows what to expect, and what the opportunities and challenges are.

Rory McIlroy, CJ Cup, OWGR, Official World Golf Ranking, Scottie Scheffler, Tiger Woods
Scottie Scheffler, THE CJ CUP, South Carolina, (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

In terms of competition for the No. 1 position, right now, his biggest threat is Scottie Scheffler who still holds the top spot.  Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm are behind him slightly, and Cameron Smith will begin to fall as he loses ranking points after joining LIV. Dustin Johnson, for example, has fallen from No. 1 to 26 in less than 18 months.

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"“I think if I get back to No. 1 this week, it’s like my ninth time getting back. It sort of illustrates you can have your runs and you can stay there, but I think the cool part is the journey,”  “It’s sort of like a heavyweight boxer losing a world title and it’s a journey to get that title back.”"