Published Sunday, 04 March 2012
Rory McIlroy poses with the trophy after winning the Honda Classic (© Getty)
The 22-year-old golfer from Holywood only dropped one shot in a final round of 69 to become the second youngest number one - after Tiger Woods - since the rankings began in 1986.
On Sunday, McIlroy had to stop the former number one from pulling off one of his most remarkable wins after Woods, joint 18th teeing off, charged from nine behind to only two back - producing the lowest final round of his career with an eight under par 62.
Woods followed a 24-foot putt for birdie on the short 17th with an eight-footer for his second eagle at the last.
On the 18th hole, McIlroy was still two in front and he made the safest of pars for a closing 69 and a 12-under-par total that gave him the title and ended Luke Donald's nine-month reign.
Woods and 43-year-old American Tom Gillis finished two strokes off the lead, with Lee Westwood two strokes further in fourth place.
Last week, McIlroy missed a chance to dethrone Donald at the top of the rankings when he lost the final of the Accenture Match Play in Tucson to American Hunter Mahan.
Celebrating his victory, McIlroy said: "It was tough today, especially seeing Tiger make a charge.
"I knew par golf would probably be good enough and that's what I was trying to do, so to shoot one under is very nice and I was able to get the job done.
"My short game all week has been very good and it's what you need on a tough course like this. You know you are not going to hit every green."
McIlroy previously won at Quail Hollow in 2010 and, in 2011, he became the youngest winner of the US Open since 1923.
Fellow NI golfer Graeme McDowell congratulated McIlroy, saying: "He's the best player I've ever seen."
"He deserves it," said fellow Northern Irishman McDowell. "I think he's the best player on the planet right now.
"He's the best player I've ever seen tee-to-green, period. I didn't have a chance to play with Tiger early-to-mid-2000s when Tiger was the man, but Rory McIlroy is the best player I've ever seen."
McIlroy is the fourth European in a row to head the rankings following Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Donald.