Illinois - The back-and-forth between Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at the
top of the world rankings shows no sign of slowing down with a further change
possible after this week's BMW Championship in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Northern Irishman McIlroy returned to the summit when the latest rankings
were issued on Monday, the fourth successive week that he and American Spieth
have traded places.
The margin between the two is a wafer-thin 0.023 average points, the
narrowest gap between the world's top two players since the official rankings
were launched in 1986.
McIlroy and Spieth are both in the field for the BMW Championship, the
penultimate FedExCup playoff event of the season, and either of them - along
with third-ranked Australian Jason Day - could be world number one next week.
"It'll be like that until one of us separates ourselves a little
bit," McIlroy told reporters ahead of Thursday's opening round at Conway
Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.
"At the end of the day, it's just about playing and playing well. I
don't know any other way we could determine the best player in the world.
"You could do it on a one-year point system instead of two. I think two
years is a good reflection of how you played."
The ranking system is structured on a two-year 'rolling' period with points
awarded for each event and then maintained for a 13-week spell to give
additional emphasis on recent performances.
Ranking points are then reduced in equal decrements for the remaining 91
weeks of the two-year time frame. Each player is ranked according to his
average points per tournament.
"We're all focused on our own goals," said Masters and US Open
champion Spieth, who became world number one for the first time after finishing
runner-up to the triumphant Day in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits
"As one, two and three in the world, we're the three that have to beat
each other at the top right now in order to try to get to the top, or to remain
at the top (of the rankings).
"I'm not focused on what either one's doing on the leader board unless
they're in the lead, and then if they're in the lead, how do I get up there and
The only previous time when there were changes at the top of the rankings
for four successive weeks was in June 1997 when Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Ernie
Els and then Norman again traded places.
Odds are good that McIlroy and Spieth will keep their 'merry-go-round' at
the top going into a fifth consecutive week and perhaps beyond, with Day in
close pursuit to make it a three-way battle.
Golf fans can now savour the tantalising prospect of that trio challenging
for supremacy in the blue riband events for at least the next five years with
McIlroy aged 26, Spieth 22 and Day 27.
Between them, they have won five of the last six major championships played
with all three having developed a habit of shining at their brightest on the
sport's biggest stage.