World number one yet again—Rory McIlroy has ended a five-year gap and returned to the world number one status despite sitting out the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The vagaries of the Official World Golf Rankings system and the rolling two-year points system that it covers, means that McIlroy replaces Brooks Koepka as the best player in the world even though neither played at Pebble Beach.
Getting to world number one
McIlroy last sat at the top of the world rankings back in 2015, but the four-time major winner had set his sights on his game taking him back to the number one spot this year as he promised to bring an aggressive brand of golf to both the PGA TOUR and European Tour.
The irony is that he has achieved the goal without playing, moving from 0.2 points behind Koepka in the OWGR points to just 0.03 points ahead. That is because McIlroy’s average points during the two-year period divided by the number of events played edge him marginally ahead.
Both players will be in action in the Genesis Open at Riviera Golf Course and McIlroy’s position at the top could be shortlived depending on his comparative performance to Koepka, given how closely matched the pair are.
“It’s all about the process, it’s all about the game, it’s all about trying to make improvements,” McIlroy said earlier this year about his intention to regain the world number one ranking. “If I do that and I achieve those goals, then hopefully inevitably I get to that position. It’s a by-product of playing consistently good golf and I’ve been doing that for a while now.”
Pebble Beach Pro-Am
While the world’s best two golfers chose to miss the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Canadian Nick Taylor—the world number 229—sealed a second PGA TOUR victory with a four-shot win over Kevin Streelman.
Taylor topped the leaderboard throughout week on the Pebble Beach Links and a 2-under par final round was enough to finish on 19-under par for the week, four clear of the fast-finishing Streelman with defending champion Phil Mickelson a shot further back in third.
The victory, which earns Taylor a place in the Masters at Augusta in April, ended six years without a win on the PGA TOUR since his success in the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship.
Across the other side of the Pacific Ocean in Australia, Min Woo Lee and Hee Young Park won the men’s and women’s titles at the Vic Open at the 13th Beach Golf Club in Geelong.
Lee, the brother of two-time former Vic Open winner Minjee, claimed his first European Tour title on only his 19th start. He held off a late challenge from Ryan Fox to finish two-shots clear on 19-under par.
Sister Minjee was in the hunt to make it a special day for the Lee family but ultimately fell two shots short as Park battled it out with Hye-Jin Choi and So Yeon Ryu in a three-way play-off after the compatriots had all finished the week on 8-under par.
It took four holes to separate them with Ryu exiting after the second trip up the 18th with par not good enough to keep her hopes alive. Park and Choi shared the third extra hole once again, before par was enough to seal victory for Park and a third LPGA Tour title.