Pursuit of No. 1 unites new Big 3


They are from such different parts of the world.

There’s the Ulsterman, Rory McIlroy, and the Texan, Jordan Spieth, and the Australian, Jason Day.

They speak with distinctly different accents from cultures with such different views of the world, and yet they’re alike in so many ways.

These three young stars atop the world of golf share a charm, an eloquence and an openness that make the game feel accessible in ways it hasn’t since Arnold Palmer ruled over it. They’re Palmer-esque in so many ways.

Day, 27, feels that in the youthful energy running through the top of the sport.

“I think it’s kind of refreshing for the game of golf right now,” Day said Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship. “The kids these days, especially Jordan, Rory and Rickie [Fowler], it’s a very approachable group of kids, who you can easily be fans of.

“I feel like back in the days 10 or 15 years ago, it was harder to approach the top players in the world. For me to be able to be in that trio, it’s neat.”

McIlroy, Spieth and Day may share a certain charm, but it’s another quality that is driving their names together.

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They share an ambition that belies their generous dispositions. They share an ambition that doesn’t want to share this grand stage in golf at all. Day will tell you this in the same breath he shares his admiration for his rivals. He wants to rule more than he wants to share.

“I want to be on top of the trio,” Day said. “That’s what I’m shooting for. It’s going to be tough for me to do that, but it’s going to be a lot of fun trying to top those guys.”

We heard McIlroy, 26, and Spieth, 22, present the same bold desires in the same gentlemanly language.

“Golf is in a cool place right now with young guys who aren’t afraid to win,” Spieth said.

McIlroy returned to No. 1 in the world rankings this week, with Spieth falling back to No. 2 and Day holding firm at No. 3.

They’re here at TPC Boston, though, to take what the others covet most.

They’re here to plunder trophies, FedEx Cup points, money and rankings.

“No. 1 is my No. 1 priority in life,” Day said of his career goals. “Rory and Jordan are the two I’m shooting for. I’m just a little bit behind them. It makes me hungry to try and go catch them.”

Spieth said Day is probably already the real No. 1 in the game, given his current form. Day is looking this week to win for the fourth time in his last five starts. Spieth is enjoying a terrific year, too. He won the Masters and the U.S. Open and was in the hunt until the end of the Open Championship and the PGA Championship.

McIlroy, who missed much of the summer with an ankle injury, won the last two majors of last year.

Together, this trio has combined to win five of the last six majors.

“Seeing Jordan and Jason being in contention so much over the summer, definitely it's motivation for me to get out there and try to play the best that I can,” McIlroy said. “I'm with those guys for a little bit, and I'll obviously try to surpass them.”

McIlroy said one of his goals this year was to build his world ranking average to further separate himself from challengers.

“The guys are coming at me,” McIlroy said. “I don't mind being in this position. It's a good thing. It makes it competitive. It gives you guys a great narrative to run with. I'm just enjoying being part of that conversation.”

Last week, Spieth downplayed giving the No. 1 ranking back to McIlroy, but he acknowledged Thursday he didn’t part with it as well as he made it appear.

“It stinks to lose that position, it really does,” Spieth said.

Spieth finds the Big Three talk motivational.

“It's enjoyable,” he said. “It was the Big One. And after the Masters, it was the Big Two. And Rickie won The Players, and then it was the Big Three. The U.S. Open happened, and it was the Big Two again. And Jason won three out of four weeks, and it was the Big Three again. I just hope I stay in the `Big’ moment, whenever it changes next. I hope I'm the one staying in that space.”

Or, preferably, atop that space.