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Memory Lane

Rory McIlroy's remarkable consistency is best shown with how the world ranking looked the first time he reached No. 1

October 24, 2022

Rory McIlroy after winning the 2012 Honda Classic to move to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time.

Mike Ehrmann

There's been so much focus on Rory McIlroy's major championship drought the past eight years that all his accomplishments have a tendency to get overlooked. The PGA Tour Player of the Year Awards. The FedEx Cup trophies (up to three now). And, yes, the strong finishes in majors despite still searching for that elusive fifth title.

But it's the sum of all those things that make up his Official World Golf Ranking. And McIlroy has had a pretty remarkable run of sustained excellence in that regard as well.

With his 23rd career PGA Tour title on Sunday at the CJ Cup, McIlroy once again moved to No. 1 in the world. It's the ninth different time he's held the top spot and it marks the 107th week atop the ranking in his career. That's more than two full years of being ranked first, but this occassion seemed more meaningful to McIlroy, who got emotional talking about getting back there.

But perhaps the best way to explain just how good he's been is to take a look back at the first time he was ranked first. As noted by No Laying Up, the OWGR's top 10 looked a lot different when McIlroy won the 2012 Honda Classic to first ascend to No. 1. And the rest of those players are currently ranked a lot lower:

Pretty wild. As you can see, it's not easy to remain at or near the top. Even in a sport like golf where athletes have long careers. And yes, Rory was only 22 then and most of these players are much older. Even so, the contrast is jarring.

Forget about being in the top 10, only two of those golfers are still ranked in the top 100. And one of them, Webb Simpson, is barely hanging on at No. 98. Jason Day, who is only a year older than McIlroy and got to No. 1 in 2015 and 2016, is down at No. 146.

And the man Rory replaced in the top spot a decade ago, Luke Donald, isn't even in the top 500 today. The 44-year-old will get to captain McIlroy, though, for Team Europe at next year's Ryder Cup.

Meanwhile, since 2010 McIlroy has only ended one year ranked outside the top 10. And that was when he finished No. 11 in 2017.

In other words, the guy has been really, really good. For a really, really long time. And at 33, there are potentially a lot more weeks—and years—for him to hold down the top spot.