DORAL, Fla. — Don’t get the idea that Luke Donald was camped out in front of his television for the final hour of the Honda Classic, waiting to see if Rory McIlroy would win and replace him as No. 1 in the world.
“I was actually with my daughters at the playground,” Donald said Tuesday at Doral.
Donald was No. 1 for 40 weeks, the longest of anyone except for Tiger Woods in the last 15 years. Sunday was the 49th time the No. 1 ranking had traded hands, and only 10 players had a longer stay at the top than Donald. The record belongs to Woods at 281 weeks.
Donald’s first thought about seeing that McIlroy won was that he now had room for improvement, at least in the ranking.
“It’s hard to go very far when you’re No. 1,” Donald said. “But no, I didn’t give it too much thought. That’s what happens. I’ve had a little bit of a slow start. Rory has played well and deservedly overtook me. I’ve never really questioned the world ranking system. It’s an unbiased, mathematical system, and he’s done enough to get to No. 1.”
Donald and Lee Westwood, whom Donald supplanted at No. 1 last May, could return to the top this week at Doral, though that could depend on how McIlroy fares.
Westwood said he was talking to Donald on the putting green Tuesday. He greeted Donald by calling him “No. 2.”
“He looked at me and nodded and he said, `Yeah, it’s sort of a bit of a relief.’ He said, `There’s only one way to go when you’re No. 1.’ At least there’s more than one way to go at No. 2,” Westwood said. “You’re at the top there and everybody shoots at you. But I think that’s the position you want to be in. You want the position everyone is envious of.”
McIlroy became the fourth player in 16 months to be No. 1, and it has changed hands five times since Woods’ 281-week reign ended in November 2010.
“I think it adds a little bit of interest,” Donald said. “When Tiger was No. 1, no one really talked about the world rankings much, and maybe the big talking point was who was in the top 50.
GONE FROM DORAL: A couple of ugly finishes left Jim Furyk little hope of getting into Doral, where he is a past champion. First, he lost a 3-up lead to Dustin Johnson and was eliminated in the first round of the Match Play Championship. Then, he opened with a 68 at the Honda Classic but shot 74 to miss the cut by one shot. Furyk missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the last hole.
He is No. 61 in the world, ineligible for a World Golf Championship for the first time since this series began in 1999.
Ditto for Ernie Els, who has fallen to No. 65. Els narrowly got into the Match Play Championship and beat top-seeded Luke Donald in the opening round. But because all the top players were there, it was hard to move up without advancing deep into the bracket.
HONDA AND KOBE: Tiger Woods shot 62 in the final round of the Honda Classic, then retreated to the locker room to see if it would be enough for a playoff. He had the golf on one TV, and the Heat-Lakers game on the other.
“We had the volume turned down on the golf and up on the Lakers game,” Woods said Sunday.
One of them did better in the ratings.
ESPN drew a 5.1 overnight rating on the Heat-Lakers game, which the Lakers won. The Honda Classic at a 3.2 overnight rating.
Even so, the PGA Tour had an increase of 78 percent over the previous year, and it was the highest overnight rating for the Honda Classic since it registered a 3.4 in 2002.
It was the second straight week of gains for NBC Sports and golf. It had 3.3 million viewers for the final of the Match Play Championship, up 30 percent from the previous year and the highest for a championship match that did not feature Woods since the event began in 1999.
DIVOTS: Tiger Woods remains a big draw, even among his peers. Miguel Angel Carballo, the alternate thrown into the group with Woods and Lee Westwood after Ian Poulter withdrew, brought two flags into the scoring trailer for Woods to sign after the Argentine rookie missed the cut. … Jaime Diaz has been named editor-in-chief of Golf World magazine, replacing Geoff Russell, who left to become executive editor of the Golf Channel. … The Honda Classic set new attendance records last week with 161,700 confirmed spectators from Monday through Sunday, when Rory McIlroy held off Tiger Woods. It was the first time Woods played the event as a pro. … The Greenbrier Classic will give an exemption to the winner of the Haskins Award, given to the top Division I college golfer as voted on by NCAA players, coaches and golf media.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Greg Norman in 2002 was the last non-Asian to receive a special invitation from the Masters.
FINAL WORD: “My dad always said to me, `If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”’—U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, who at 22 went to No. 1 in the world.