SAN DIEGO – When Rory McIlroy missed the cut last July at The Open it was easily the emotional low of his season and about as far as he could imagine from his professional goals.
“[The world’s top ranking] wasn't on the radar when I was flying back from Northern Ireland in July,” McIlroy said Wednesday at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Although he was ranked third in the world at that time it might as well have been 30th considering the lead (1.97 average ranking points) Brooks Koepka had over the Northern Irishman. But that landscape has changed dramatically since Royal Portrush, and McIlroy begins this week’s event with a chance to overtake Koepka atop the ranking with victory at Torrey Pines.
Although McIlroy said he looks forward to the chance to retake the top spot in the ranking, he explained it hasn’t been something he’s focused on in recent years.
“I guess my thing is when I set myself goals, I set myself goals like I want to be plus-one strokes gained: approach play, it's all about the process, it's all about the game, it's all about trying to make improvements,” McIlroy said. “If I do that and I achieve those goals, then hopefully inevitably I get to that position.”
McIlroy last held the top spot in the ranking in September 2015, but he’s remained close to the top having spent just six weeks since then ranked outside top 10. He’s also been ranked second for the last 23 weeks.