Rory McIlroy knew making it to the top spot in the world rankings would never be easy Sunday at the Honda Classic. But you have to believe he didn't think he'd have to hold off former No. 1 Tiger Woods to make the dream a reality.
Nursing a two-shot lead going into the "Bear Trap" at PGA National, McIlroy kept his wits about him and managed to not only take home his third PGA Tour title, but also something the 22-year-old had had his eye on since he first burst onto the professional golf scene at the ripe age of 17: the title of best player on the planet.
No, you aren't suffering from a case of déjà vu; the top golfer in the world is a cocksure twentysomething with a truckload of talent. The last time we were able to utter those exact words was back on June 15, 1997, when a young Tiger Woods took the sport by its throat and held court for more than 10 years.
It seems fitting that McIlroy would ascend to golf's top spot because for the past five months, he's been playing better than anybody in the world. His final round 1-under 69 wasn't anything to write home about, but then again, he didn't need a Herculean effort to take home the trophy.
He just needed to post a solid round and let others force the issue – and McIlroy certainly did that, carding only two birdies during his final round while also getting up-and-down from some extremely difficult spots to save par. It was the kind of round you expected from McIlroy, who all but rid himself of the "choke" label following his emphatic 2011 U.S. Open win.
Like Woods when he was just 21, it's scary to look at McIlroy and think he's not even close to reaching the prime of his career. But if he thought winning his first major championship would alleviate some of the pressure being thrust upon him, wait until he wakes up Monday morning with the No. 1 ranking. No doubt about it, the pressure is about to go to a level the likes of which McIlroy has never seen.
But unlike some of the recent names that have held the No. 1 title, you have to believe Rory McIlroy won't just handle the pressure, he'll thrive on it. This is a kid who, since he turned pro, has been eyeing the top spot in the world and all the expectations that come with it.
McIlroy has never been more ready for anything in his life. And the way the kid is playing at the moment, you can't help but think this is the start of an incredibly special run for golf's brightest star.
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