SINCE Tiger Woods surrendered his position as golf’s dominant force the world No1 ranking has been something of a hot potato; that is until now, for I believe Rory McIlory has the game and mentality to dominate the sport for a decade.
Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer have all deservedly risen to the summit at different points over the last 18 months but, as I indicated last week, McIlroy’s ascent feels different – this is very much a changing of the guard.
It’s almost been overlooked as a result of the fanfare that has greeted his elevation to world No1, but McIlroy’s victory at the Honda Classic in Florida was a magnificent performance that demonstrated just why his stay at the top of the sport is destined to be a lengthy one.
The sight of Woods, whose final round of 62 confirmed he had found the remedy to the swing troubles that hindered him last month, hunting down the leader was once the most ominous spectacle in golf, but McIlroy was completely unfazed and produced several tremendous up and downs to get the job done.
BURST ONTO THE SCENE
It’s that sort of calmness and serenity of thought under pressure that suggests McIroy is well equipped to remain unaffected by the extra focus and attention that accompanies his new position.
Kaymer admitted last year that he found the extra trappings and expectation difficult to cope with.
But whereas he was probably taken aback by the rapidness of his progression, McIlroy has the benefit of being groomed and prepared for this level of stardom ever since he burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old amateur at the 2007 Open at Carnoustie.
Should he need any extra advice on how to handle the enhanced spotlight, the US Open champion is in the pretty unique position of being able call upon the insight of his other half Caroline Wozniacki, the former women’s tennis No1, and I’m sure that will help him because his life is about to change in a big way.
PEAK OF HIS ABILITIES
McIroy has always had the all round game to threaten this sort of breakthrough but over the last 18 months the change in his physical condition has been startling and a key factor in the astonishing level of consistency he has been able to maintain.
Woods led the way in that respect when he dominated the sport and Rory has clearly heeded the American’s example.
Making the sort of lifestyle sacrifices that mean he no longer carries a bit too much weight around the middle has clearly benefited his game.
As long as he remains disciplined in that respect he will hold a significant advantage over the chasing pack.
McIlroy is only the 16th man in 24 years to become world No1 and to have done so at the age of just 22 is an astonishing accomplishment. However, I’m confident he’s still some way from reaching the peak of his abilities.
It’s also been a pretty special week for me after I was informed I was to receive a Scottish Golf Lifetime Achievement Award.
It’s lovely and to be recognised in that way after dedicating so much of my life to the sport I love.
Sam Torrance OBE won 21 European Tour titles and is a former Ryder Cup captain. Follow Sam on twitter @torrancesam
May 1989: Born in Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland
Jul 2007: Shoots opening round three-under-par 68 at the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie, his first Major championship. Cards five-over-par overall and is the highest finishing amateur, winning the silver medal (inset below)
Sep 2007: Part of the Great Britain & Ireland team which loses the 2007 Walker Cup, after which he turned pro
Oct 2007: Aged 17 becomes youngest Affiliate Member in the history of the European Tour to earn a tour card after finishing third at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Feb 2009: Celebrates the first professional win of his career at the Dubai Desert Classic at the age of 19
May 2010: Now inside the world’s top 10, he claims his first PGA Tour title at the Quail Hollow Championship, setting a course record in the final round
Oct 2010: Secures a vital half-point to help Europe regain the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor
Jun 2011: Less than two montsh after blowing a five-shot lead at the Masters he shatters a host of records to win the US Open (inset right)
Mar 2012: Becomes second youngest player to reach world No1