Rory McIlroy’s fifth spell as world number one could last a single week depending on results in the US PGA Championship at Valhalla.
McIlroy’s victories in the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational have lifted the 25-year-old above Adam Scott in the rankings, but only by 0.17 points.
Scott would reclaim top spot with a win on Sunday, regardless of where McIlroy finishes, and even a top-20 finish would be good enough for the Australian if McIlroy missed the cut and Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose failed to win.
Garcia, Stenson and Rose can all become world number one for the first time in their careers with a win, but they would also be reliant on McIlroy and Scott’s results to varying degrees.
“I think the right guy is at number one at the moment,” former Masters champion Scott admitted.
“The guy who is winning the most tournaments probably should be the number one player and he’s won three really big tournaments this summer and I’ve won one event.
“My consistent play is good, but you want the rankings to work and favour guys that win big events like that.
“I hope that I can go ahead and win this week and maybe go back to number one, but there’s no doubt Rory has played the best golf over the last few months.”
Plenty of birdies are likely to be necessary at Valhalla this week, with Woods and Bob May finishing tied on 18 under par the last time the US PGA was held here in 2000.
McIlroy was just 11 years old at the time but remembers watching it on TV, along with the 2008 Ryder Cup at the same venue, but will have just two days to get to know the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout for himself.
“I gave myself the day off yesterday, which I felt like I needed, just to recharge a little bit,” he added.
“Emotionally and mentally it’s more fatiguing after you win tournaments than it is physically. So just to give your brain and your head a day to rest is a good thing.
“Having all these tournaments sort of go back-to-back gives you less time to think about it. You just get straight back into it and you try to prepare the best you can.
“I’ll just try and play golf similar to what I’ve played the last few weeks.”
McIlroy’s fellow Ulsterman, Graeme McDowell, made a significant Ryder Cup move with his top 10 finish at the WGC event last week and knows another strong display at Valhalla could guarantee him a place on Paul McGinley’s side.
“It looked like I’d maybe left it a little late but thankfully I’ve played really well the last couple of months and got myself in great shape going forward,” said McDowell.
“No-one’s a lock, let’s be honest, there’s lots of things that can happen between now and the team being picked.”
McDowell made his Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla in 2008, but doesn’t think that experience will have any bearing on how he peforms in this week’s major.
“It’s going to be a different setup from then, of course,” added McDowell.
“From what I hear, it’s not the longest course in the world, which makes me happy for sure.
“These slug fest Major championships kind of get old.
“So it will be nice to play what sounds like it might be a positional type golf course. I’m looking forward to it.
“I’m in a good place mentally and physically.
“I’ve paced myself well this year, and thankfully it’s paying off.”