SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Rory McIlroy rushed back from a six-to-eight-week injury to defend his title at the PGA Championship.
His No. 1 ranking is in danger.
Five scenarios exist this week at Whistling Straits in which McIlroy would surrender the top ranking that he’s had for the past 53 weeks. (The full list of scenarios can be found here.) All are a moot point if he plays like he’s capable.
McIlroy won’t deny that the narrative in golf has shifted – from him being alone on the marquee at the end of ’14 to a shared spotlight with Jordan Spieth, the 22-year-old two-time major winner.
“He’s taking up a lot of the limelight this year, and deservedly so,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the PGA. “It’s one of the best years of golf that we have seen in a long, long time.”
McIlroy and Spieth have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the world rankings, and they’ll play together for the first two rounds here. It doesn’t have quite the appeal of a Sunday showdown, but for a rivalry-starved public it should be pretty good theater to have the Nos. 1 and 2 players in the world head-to-head for only the ninth and 10th times in their career.
“I knew I wasn’t going to have a low-key return to the game,” McIlroy said, “and this definitely isn’t it.”
So who’s the best player in the world right now?
The easy answer is Spieth, who is in the midst of historic two-major, four-win, $9.3 million campaign. McIlroy has three worldwide wins this calendar year, but he’s also playing in his first tournament in 53 days, after rupturing ligaments in his left ankle while playing soccer.
McIlroy agreed that, right now, Spieth is the probably best player on the planet.
“Over the last two years, I would say it’s probably a toss-up between Jordan and myself,” he said. “That’s a hard one. People are going to place importance on different aspects of the game. ... It’s all a matter of opinion at this point.”
True, but what is your opinion, he was asked.
“I’ll tell you at the end of the week,” he said, smiling.