McIlroy showing signs of rising to challenge of Woods

Sam Torrance
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RORY McIlroy might have lost his world No1 ranking to Tiger Woods and suffered a very difficult start to the year, but there have been some positive signs from the Northern Irishman in the past few days.

First, he made two birdies in the last four holes to make his first cut of the season at the Houston Open on Friday.

It would have been easy for him at that stage to give up and get out of there, but instead he showed great desire. McIlroy wants to play, and that can only be good.

Second, he then made a late application to enter the Texas Open, his last chance to play a tournament before next week’s Masters. You love to see that attitude.

He has obviously got something good that he is working on, and a lot of the time it can be better to do that under the pressurised conditions of a competition. Anyone can hit balls on the range but you can’t replicate playing with a pencil in your hand.

Being knocked off the top of the rankings would certainly have spurred on McIlroy, had he needed it. He doesn’t, though, because the top players love winning for its own sake; the world No1 spot is just the icing on the cake.

Woods is most definitely back, meanwhile, as his eighth win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and return to top spot in the rankings last week proved beyond any doubt.

Tiger, who looks to be swinging his club magnificently, was totally in control at Bay Hill, just upping the level a notch whenever anyone got too close. He looks like the player of old and I really can’t wait to see how he gets on at Augusta this month.

It was good to see Henrik Stenson continue his return to form at the Houston Open. The Swede was tied for second behind DA Points, a week after his eighth place at Bay Hill, moving him into the world top 50 and earning him a likely place at the Masters.

Finally, congratulations to Marcel Siem for winning the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, a tournament I know well.

Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam