When a reporter asked McIlroy on Wednesday whether he’s still the best player in the world, he didn’t hesitate in answering yes.
“Because I do. I’m playing well,” McIlroy said, during a news conference ahead of this week’s WM Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. “I feel like, consistency-wise, I’ve been as good as I have ever been in my career.
“I said at the end of last year, I feel as complete of a player as I ever have. If you just look at my statistical categories, there’s no real glaring weaknesses there. I’ve worked really hard on that, to try to become a more well-rounded player.”
It would be easy to argue that either player is deserving of the No. 1 ranking based on what the two have done in their past eight worldwide starts. McIlroy has won three times during that stretch, including two weeks ago at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour, in which he admitted his game wasn’t at its best. He also won in his past two PGA Tour starts, the CJ Cup in South Carolina in October and Tour Championship in August.
Rahm has won four times since October, including the Spanish Open and DP World Tour Championship on the DP World Tour and in back-to-back PGA Tour starts at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the American Express.
McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in each of his past eight worldwide starts. So has Rahm, who also tied for second at the BMW PGA Championship in September.
“I think the results speak for themselves, as well, over not just the past six months but really the past 18 months post-Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, I feel like I’ve been on a really good run of form since then,” McIlroy said.
The WM Phoenix Open will be the first meeting between McIlroy and Rahm in the U.S. since the CJ Cup, in which Rahm tied for fourth. McIlroy was fourth in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which Rahm won by 2 strokes.
Defending WM Phoenix Open winner Scottie Scheffler, a four-time winner last year, is ranked No. 2 in the world. He can regain No. 1 with a second straight victory at TPC Scottsdale.
“I like being No. 1 in the world. I don’t like being No. 2,” Scheffler said. “It’s just kind of one of those funny things. Right now, I’m ranked No. 2, but I would say I’m not playing the second-best golf in the world. I think Rory and Jon are pretty much neck-and-neck for playing the best golf in the world right now, so the rankings are funny. It’s just an algorithm. You don’t get any extra trophies or anything like that for having it for a short period of time, but it’s more of a reflection of other things, I’d say, but I don’t like being No. 2.
“I’d rather be No. 1.”