Donald reclaims top OWGR spot, ousting McIlroy

Luke Donald, of England, holds up his golf ball after saving par on the 17th hole during the final round of the Transitions golf tournament.

Luke Donald, of England, holds up his golf ball after saving par on the 17th hole during the final round of the Transitions golf tournament.

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Well, that was quick. Rory McIlroy’s reign at No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking is over after just two weeks. Just as McIlroy ascended to the top spot with a victory at the Honda Classic, Luke Donald reclaimed that position by winning the Transitions Championship.

“Well I enjoyed it while it lasted! Congrats @LukeDonald! Impressive performance!” McIlroy tweeted Sunday evening. Donald has a knack for winning when No. 1 is at stake. Now he just needs to extend that good timing to the majors.

The Transitions was the second time Donald took the No. 1 ranking with a victory. He also did so by winning last May’s BMW PGA Championship in a playoff over then-No. 1 Lee Westwood. Donald’s Transitions win was approximately five months and 100 miles removed from his last victory, at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. That win allowed him to overtake Webb Simpson for the top spot on the PGA Tour money list.

McIlroy’s brief reign was likely the prelude to a lengthy existence atop the OWGR, but even in the (highly unlikely and all but unfathomable) circumstance that McIlroy never regains the No. 1 ranking, he wouldn’t be the shortest resident in the No. 1 penthouse. Tom Lehman was No. 1 for just one week (April 20-26, 1997). Lehman’s brief reign ended a 96-week run by Greg Norman, who regained the top spot on April 27 and held it for seven weeks, until Woods became No. 1 for the first time.

Woods’ first visit to No. 1 lasted just one week (June 15-21, 1997). He was supplanted by Ernie Els after Els won the U.S. Open and Buick Classic in consecutive weeks. Woods didn’t return to No. 1 until winning the Western Open on July 6, 1997.

The reason for brief initial stays atop the ranking is obvious. It takes time – months, even years – to build the kind of large lead that can’t be overcome with one good week from the No. 2 player.

Donald’s reign will likely last until the Masters. McIlroy, his closest pursuer, won’t play again until Augusta. None of the world’s top five players are in action this week. That means Donald can enjoy the view, for now.

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