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Matter of time: McIlroy and Westwood gunning for number one

The current top ranker, Luke Donald, will sit out this weekend’s Honda Classic. So a top three finish in Palm Beach could be enough to give McIlroy top billing.

Lee Westwood of England, left, congratulates Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland on his 3 and 2 semifinal win during the Match Play Championship golf tournament.
Lee Westwood of England, left, congratulates Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland on his 3 and 2 semifinal win during the Match Play Championship golf tournament.
Image: Eric Risberg/AP/Press Association Images

RORY MCILROY AND Lee Westwood will be eyeing the world number one ranking with a win at the Honda Classic.

With Luke Donald taking a break after his first-round exit at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, McIlroy and Westwood have a chance to move ahead of the Englishman.

If both McIlroy, who was runner-up to American Hunter Mahan in Arizona, and England’s Westwood fail to win, a top-three finish could be enough, but a victory will guarantee one of them the coveted top ranking.

Northern Irishman McIlroy is undoubtedly the form player in the world at the moment.

The 22-year-old already has three top-five finishes to his name this year, building on wins in Shanghai and Hong Kong to complete 2011.

He and Westwood face a tough task against a talented field containing several Major winners, including Tiger Woods.

Woods will make his first start at the Honda Classic as a professional, with the 14-time Major winner’s last outing at the tournament coming in 1993 as an amateur.

Donald, who has failed to finish in the top-30 of his first two events of the year, is a notable absentee for the stroke-play tournament starting on Thursday at the PGA National Champion Course in Florida.

All four of last year’s Major winners will be present, with McIlroy (US Open), Charl Schwartzel (Masters), Darren Clarke (British Open) and Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship) taking their places.

Others sure to be in contention for the US$1million winner’s prize are in-form duo Ben Crane and Mark Wilson, with the latter having won the tournament in 2007, while reigning champion Rory Sabbatini also returns.

The par-70 course includes a tough finish, one of the most difficult of the PGA Tour.

The 190-yard par-three 17th has a water hazard on the right with bunkers to the right and over the green, while the par-three 15th begins the tough three-hole stretch.

Westwood and others will be up against it in their bid to stop McIlroy, who is in scintillating form as he continues his chase of the top ranking.

Column: The great McIlroy irony

In the swing: Mahan needed to prove that he can handle the pressure

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