Akron (US): Rory McIlroy is back on top of the golf world, following up his British Open triumph with an elite World Golf Championships win on Sunday.
The 25-year-old from Northern Ireland rallied from a three-stroke deficit to beat Spain's Sergio Garcia by two strokes at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. With the victory he supplants Australian Adam Scott atop the rankings, ascending to number one for the fifth time in his career but the first time since March of 2013.
"It feels like a long time since I lost that No. 1 spot, but it feels good to be back on top," said McIlroy, whose star faded in 2013 when he struggled with problems both on and off the golf course. "Hopefully, I can keep it for a while." A win in the Australian Open late last year and then a very public split with tennis-playing girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki in May paved the way for McIlroy to once again produce his best golf.
What happened a fortnight ago at Royal Liverpool proved that McIlroy is the true heir apparent to Tiger Woods as the world's best golfer. Now he has become the 13th player to own both a major and a WGC title -- and joined Woods as the only players to win them in back-to-back starts. For McIlroy, winning a first WGC crown at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight titles, was special.
"I grew up watching Tiger dominate in this tournament and dominate pretty much wherever he played," McIlroy said. "I dreamed of one day trying to do something like that. "I'm not comparing myself because he's done this millions of times and this is only my first ... But yeah, it feels great to come here and win on this golf course." - No slowing for McIlroy - The week at Firestone showcased the glaring contrast in the current career trajectories of McIlroy and Woods.
McIlroy vowed all week that he wouldn't take his foot off the accelerator in the wake of his Open triumph, which made him just the third player in history -- after Jack Nicklaus and Woods -- to win three of golf's four majors by the age of 25. He made good on that promise on Sunday, when he birdied four of his first five holes to surge past a demoralized Garcia -- who had also chased him in vain in the final round of the Open.
By the time McIlroy was hoisting the trophy, the 38-year-old Woods was long gone -- his third start since back surgery in March cut short when an awkward shot left him with painful back spasms and forced him to withdraw. Woods is now questionable for the final major of the year that starts at Valhalla on Thursday.
McIlroy is a prohibitive favorite to add another major title to his resume before attempting to complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters next year. McIlroy was already looking ahead to Valhalla, and his plans for familiarizing himself with the layout at Louisville on Monday and Tuesday. "I feel like, with the way I'm playing, there's a few wins left in me this year," he said.