McIlroy eyeing long-term 'Rory glory'
New world number one Rory McIlroy has the potential to dominate golf for years to come.
Very few players make it to the top of the rankings. McIlroy is only the 16th in the 24 years that golfing status has been officially measured.
In the short term there may be occasions when he will be toppled from top spot because of the congested nature of the rankings, but aged just 22 he seems destined to spend many weeks as golf's top man.
The youngster from Northern Ireland fulfilled his childhood dream just seven days after missing his first chance of hitting golf's summit. That tells you all you need to know about his star quality and competitive instincts.
At the very first opportunity, after losing the WGC Match Play final to Hunter Mahan, McIlroy conquered a quality field on a tough PGA National Course in West Palm Beach, repelling a fierce Tiger Woods charge in the process.
Woods proved he wants to reclaim his number one status with his inspired 62. To do that, though, he will need to win majors for the first time since 2008 and show a McIlroy-like level of consistency.
McIlroy is the third player from the UK to reach number one in the last 18 months. Photo: Getty
Victory in the Honda Classic has capped an astonishing run. The European Ryder Cup star has played 11 tournaments since finishing 64th, when plagued by a self-inflicted wrist injury, at last August's PGA Championship.
In that time McIlroy has won twice, finished second four times, third twice and only once finished outside the top five. That was when he was eleventh at the Dubai World Championship while suffering from Dengue Fever.
He must now be regarded as a short-odds favourite for next month's Masters, an event he led by four strokes heading into last year's tumultuous final round. The US Open Champion is a completely different player to the one who blew it on the back nine at Augusta 11 months ago.
Indeed, McIlroy has impressed at every stage of his career. "He's going to win a lot of majors," Jack Nicklaus told us last week. "What a nice player."
Commentating on NBC, Johnny Miller told American golf fans: "The freedom of his swing is what is so impressive. He's like a young Seve in the way that he plays."
At the other end of the experience spectrum, Tour newcomer Harris English offered an insight into how McIlroy is regarded by his peers. "I've watched him play the last couple of years. He's got a great game," the American youngster said.
"I think he's the best player in the world right now, hands down. He's very impressive."
Just as striking as the quality of McIlroy's golf is the way he has accelerated through a dramatic learning curve to develop into a player mature beyond his years.
"It's not just the golf you have to deal with," said the player, who turns 23 on 4 May. "It's everything that goes on the outside of that. It's something I feel I'm a lot more comfortable with."
Those off-course demands are going to multiply given his new status as the world's best player. More television cameras and microphones will chase his every move, sponsors will be wanting a piece of him too and will offer big bucks for the privilege.
It represents a huge challenge for his new Dublin-based management company. They have the experience of impressively handling Graeme McDowell's shock 2010 US Open win - but this scenario is a much bigger deal.
Succeeding McDowell as US Open Champion in such spectacular style last June changed McIlroy's life forever. No longer could the hometown boy with the local girlfriend regularly visit Belfast's nightspots with his mates.
Initially he struggled to handle the new pressures and was dogged by controversy throughout last summer.
He brusquely suggested he wouldn't change his game to try to win an Open after disappointing in the wind and rain of Sandwich.
He rowed on Twitter with Jay Townsend in defence of his caddie and took on a ridiculously dangerous shot early in his first round of the PGA that led to the injury that undermined his challenge in the final major of 2011.
McIlroy split with his longtime girlfriend Holly Sweeney and started dating top tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Then came the split from the Chubby Chandler ISM agency that had nurtured his career since turning pro in 2007.
As Greg Norman acknowledged last week, linking up with Wozniacki has hugely benefitted McIlroy's career.
It has helped reinforce a desire to be as tough a competitor as possible and boost fitness levels to make him a genuine athlete. From being somewhat loose-limbed and chubby faced, McIlroy's look and build is now more akin to an international scrum-half.
A few weeks ago he admitted that he has become addicted to his gym work, which is in stark contrast to his teenage years when he saw no need to go anywhere near a dumbbell.
His punishing fitness regime has undoubtedly helped make him a better and more resilient golfer. He is now taking his first steps in fulfilling a youthful promise that suggested he could become golf's next dominant force and his Honda Classic win can only embolden him.
Now he has acquired a game that can triumph whatever the weather. He had to contend with tricky winds throughout the weekend in West Palm Beach.
Just as impressive, he has learned the art of winning even when the swing is out of synch.
In the final round at PGA National, he holed pressure putt after pressure putt in the knowledge that the world number one ranking was on the line. It was also done amid the hullaballoo of Woods firing a 62 to snatch the clubhouse lead.
Responding as he did was the hallmark of a player worthy of topping the world rankings. McIlroy is the third player in a row from the United Kingdom to stand at the summit of the game.
For Lee Westwood and then Luke Donald, making it to number one is a thoroughly deserved and a colossal achievement. Despite what some critics contend, these standings are an accurate reflection of the world.
But McIlroy's accession feels different. Four and a half years ago he was 876 in the world, fourteen months later he was into the top fifty. By 2009 he had made it to the top ten and now ruthlessly he has snatched top spot.
Only 14-time major champion Woods did it at a younger age and that precipitated a prolonged period of utter domination.
It would be foolhardy in the extreme to predict McIlroy matching Tiger's feats, but it certainly feels as though we are now into a potentially lengthy era of Rory glory.