Punch Shot: Best world No. 1 for golf?


Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler comprise the current top four in the Official World Golf Ranking. But which player would have the biggest impact on the game if he was the clear-cut No. 1? Our writers weigh in:


Tough call here between Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, because they both possess games with such gravitating charm.

With McIlroy, it’s not just his ability to overpower a course, to wow us with his titanic blasts as the best overall driver in the game today. It’s his candid nature that also appeals, the generosity of insight and judicious opinion that makes you understand him better and feel more invested in what’s he’s doing.

Spieth doesn’t have the power game McIlroy possesses, but he has that magical putting stroke, powerful in its ability to demoralize just as effectively as McIlroy’s majestic drives. Spieth is also generous with his precociously well-formed insights and opinions. Plus, his running dialogue on the course appeals, making us feel more like we’re walking with him than just watching him. This duo’s traits make them both good for golf beyond their physical abilities.

The biggest impact as No. 1? By a hair, the edge here goes to McIlroy based on the belief his overall game makes him more likely to win more majors and more big events on more big stages. It’s the belief that at his best he can dominate in ways no other player today can, that he can break more records and make more history.


Jordan Spieth has already shown the impact he can have in the marketplace – he outpaced all of the big names, Tiger and Phil and Rory and Rickie, with $52 million in earnings last year. That trend will continue as long as he wins, and he will, a lot, because it’s all he’s ever done since he was a youngster playing junior golf tournaments in Texas.

Spieth is a marketer’s dream, the total package: all-American, young, attractive, grounded, competitive, humble and popular among his peers. But just because he is exceedingly polite doesn’t mean he is afraid to voice his opinions.

Whether it’s his views on the 18th hole at Chambers Bay, the wind delay at St. Andrews, the Player of the Year vote, slow play or pros wearing shorts, Spieth has spoken with incredible candor on a variety of topics. It’s one of his greatest qualities, and it’s why he’s a press-room favorite. And it’s also why, as his career progresses, he will be able to initiate meaningful change in the game. When he speaks, people listen.  


Sure, Rickie Fowler could get the entire golfing world into flat brims and high tops. And Jordan Spieth could re-invent the game one big-time endorsement at a time. But when it comes to the biggest potential as world No. 1, the answer is Rory McIlroy.

Spieth and McIlroy will probably be neck-and-neck in the coming years when it comes to worldwide wins and the all-important majors category. And after Spieth’s record-setting 2015, it’s easy to forget that he still lags behind McIlroy in both categories.

But McIlroy’s edge is in global appeal, especially if we’re talking about making the biggest impact on the global game. Spieth has the Dallas Cowboys, but McIlroy has Manchester United. McIlroy has a brand awareness in the U.K. and throughout Europe that far outshines Spieth, while his popularity in the U.S. isn’t far behind that of the Texan.

You can’t go wrong with either choice, but I’ll give McIlroy the slightest of edges on this one – for now.