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The six British golfers who have topped the world golf rankings

Rory McIlroy back on top of world ranking for first time since 2015

 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts on a practice round during previews ahead of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie Golf Club on July 16, 2018 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Image: Rory McIlroy is back to world No 1 for the first time since 2015

Rory McIlroy is back on top of the world rankings for the first time since 2015, his eighth spell as world No 1, and he is one of only six British golfers to have been officially the best on the planet.

Despite not playing last week, McIlroy dethroned Brooks Koepka at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking and is only two weeks shy of overtaking Sir Nick Faldo's 97 weeks at the summit.

Rory McIlroy
Image: McIlroy is one of only six British players to top the world rankings

This is McIlroy's 96th week as world No 1, and extending that run into March would see him move above Faldo into third place on the all-time list of players to have spent most time at the top of the world rankings.

McIlroy is the first British golfer to hit the top since Justin Rose was last ranked world No 1, during the Masters last year, but who are the other players from the UK to have achieve the feat??

Nick Faldo (97 weeks)

The battle for world No 1 in the late 80s was dominated by Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros as they regularly swapped places at the top, but Faldo's two major victories in 1990 swept the Englishman to the summit.

Faldo successfully defended his Masters crown before he got the better of Norman at St Andrews to lift his second Open title at The Home of Golf, although he had to wait until September before overhauling the Australian in the rankings.

Image: Sir Nick Faldo was world No 1 for a total of 97 weeks

Norman regained top spot just six weeks later before relinquishing the title to Faldo again the following February, but he stayed there only until April as Ian Woosnam snatched his Masters crown and his world No 1 ranking.

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Faldo had to wait until the following March to spend another week at the top before handing it back to Fred Couples, but his fourth stint as No 1 was, by far, his longest - replacing Couples with his third Open victory and staying there for the next 81 weeks until being unseated by his long-time rival Norman.

Ian Woosnam (50 weeks)

The Welshman was a regular fixture in the top 10 of the world rankings as he won five times in 1990, and he took that form into the following year with two more victories in his first three starts of 1991.

Woosnam then snatched the world No 1 berth away from Faldo as well as succeeding the Englishman as Masters champion following a thrilling final-round battle with Jose Maria Olazabal and Tom Watson at Augusta National.

Ian Woosnam receives the green jacket from Nick Faldo after winning the 1991 Masters tournament
Image: Ian Woosnam snatched Faldo's Masters title and his world No 1 ranking in 1991

He added only one more title over the remainder of 1991, although seven other top-10 finishes ensured Woosnam would spend the rest of the year at the top of the rankings.

But his 50-week reign was ended by Fred Couples in March, 1992, and Woosnam was never able to regain the title and finally dropped out of the world's top 10 midway through 1994.

Lee Westwood (22 weeks)

After eight-and-a-half years without a world No 1 from the UK, mainly due to the exploits of Tiger Woods, the drought was finally ended by Lee Westwood in October 2010.

Although a major title eluded him, the Englishman's consistency saw him ranked in the world's top four throughout the year, and his runner-up finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions ended the record 281-week run of Woods at the summit.

during day one of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Course on July 12, 2018 in Gullane, Scotland.
Image: Lee Westwood's consistency swept him to the top of the rankings

Westwood's form suffered a dip early the following year and he was overhauled by Martin Kaymer after a 15-week stay at the top, although back-to-back victories in Asia earned Westwood a second spell as world No 1 for a further five weeks between April and May.

Luke Donald (56 weeks)

Like Westwood, Donald is the only other player to have been world No 1 without owning a major championship title, but he did etch his name into the history books late in 2011 when he became the first player to win the PGA Tour and European Tour Money Lists in the same season.

Donald landed his first WGC title at the Match Play in Arizona, and his play-off victory over Westwood at the BMW PGA Championship in May saw the pair swap places at the top of the world rankings.

Luke Donald during the final round of the BMW PGA Championship on the West Course at Wentworth on May 27, 2012 in Virginia Water, England.
Image: Luke Donald took over from Westwood after beating him at Wentworth in 2011

Donald would go on to pick up two more titles while collecting another nine top-10 finishes on both sides of the Atlantic, and he remained as world No 1 until being replaced by Rory McIlroy in March 2012.

McIlroy and Donald spent the next six months jostling for top spot in the rankings, with Donald fourth and final stint as the best player in the world being ended for the final time by McIlroy when the latter won the PGA Championship in August.

Rory McIlroy (96 weeks)

The Northern Irishman was widely tipped to surpass Faldo as Britain's longest-serving world No 1 when he took over from Donald early in 2012.

McIlroy chopped and changed with Donald in 2012 before making the position his own for 32 weeks following his record-breaking PGA Championship win at Kiawah Island, only for Tiger Woods to re-emerge from injury as his five PGA Tour wins in 2013 kept him on top of the world for 60 weeks.

Rory McIlroy
Image: McIlroy is close to being third in the list of most weeks spent at the top of the rankings

But after a torrid 2013 campaign, McIlroy roared back to form with a stunning run of results in 2014 after igniting his march back to world No 1 with victory at the BMW PGA Championship.

He followed that with wins at both The Open and the PGA Championship at Valhalla, either side of another victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and his fifth spell as world No 1 lasted for 54 weeks until he was overtaken by Jordan Spieth.

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McIlroy and Spieth swapped places four times over the next five weeks, with both returning to world No 1 following a week off, but McIlroy's one week at the top in September, 2015 was his last until this week.

Four victories and a host of consistent performances throughout 2019 kept him in touch with Brooks Koepka, and he finally dethroned the American's 38-week reign when the rankings were updated this week.

Justin Rose (13 weeks)

After 20 years in the professional ranks, Rose finally achieved his dream of becoming world No 1 in September, 1998 - the 22nd player to hit the summit since the Official World Golf Rankings were introduced in 1986.

It was a bittersweet moment for Rose as he had just ascended to world No 1 despite losing a play-off to Keegan Bradley at the BMW Championship, although his initial reign lasted only a fortnight.

during the second round of the 100th PGA Championship at the Bellerive Country Club on August 10, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri.
Image: Justin Rose spent five separate spells as world No 1

The successful defence of his Turkish Airlines Open title a couple of months later got him back to world No 1 ahead of Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson in a lengthy three-way battle for top spot.

Rose would spend the first eight weeks of last year as the world's best player, but he managed only one further week - during the Masters - at the top, but he remains without a victory in over a year and is currently in danger of slipping out of the world's top 10.

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