Altvater: McIlroy could regain No. 1 ranking at Shell Houston OpenWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
The world is a better place and seems to have gained a new equilibrium. Tiger Woods ascended to No. 1 with his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
In October 2011, he had fallen to No. 58. Six wins over the last 12 months have put him back in a familiar spot. He has held the No. 1 ranking for 632 weeks in his illustrious career.
The question is, however, can the previous No. 1 Rory McIlroy regain that lofty status. He first rose to No. 1 after his win, a little over one year ago, at the 2012 Honda Classic.
As the defending champion and reigning No. 1, McIlroy became so frustrated with his game that he withdrew after just eight holes during the second round at the Honda Classic this year.
That hopefully was the low point for McIlroy. In his next start at the WGC-Cadillac he posted three rounds under par and a T-8 yielded his first top-10 finish of 2013.
McIlroy’s very public relationship with tennis professional Caroline Wozniacki, youthful exuberance and golf prowess have made him a media darling. The pressure of maintaining the No. 1 ranking appeared to weigh heavily on his young shoulders.
His off-season switch to Nike for a multimillion-dollar sponsorship contract also put a ton of pressure on McIlroy to perform.
He will make his last start prior to the Masters this week in the Shell Houston Open. He is only percentage points behind Woods and could reclaim the No. 1 spot with a win this week.
We only have to look back to last summer when McIlroy missed three cuts prior to winning the PGA Championship and two FedEx Cup Playoff events to end the 2012 PGA Tour season.
McIlroy held the No. 1 ranking for a total of 32 weeks before losing it to Woods. He is only 23 years old and is beginning to understand the focus necessary to stay in the top spot.
He is a quick learner and it would not be surprising to see him hoisting the trophy on Sunday afternoon and leapfrog Woods to regain the No. 1 ranking.
McIlroy and Woods will next meet at Augusta. A strong showing in Houston for McIlroy will only heighten the anticipation level for the Masters.