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The Players: Rory McIlroy cannot fathom Tiger Woods' record of 683 weeks as world No 1

"I just don't think anyone can speak highly enough of what Tiger did over that stretch of golf. It was just insane"; watch live build-up and action on Sky Sports The Players

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Rory McIlroy said he is proud to have been No. 1 in the world for a total of 100 weeks, and that it's 'insane' that Tiger Woods managed 683 weeks at the top

Rory McIlroy expressed his pride at celebrating 100 weeks of his career as world No 1, but he would need to spend another 583 weeks at the top of the rankings to match the "unbelievable" Tiger Woods.

McIlroy returned to the summit without hitting a ball last month as he ended Brooks Koepka's long reign to become world No 1 for the eighth time, and the first time since 2015, and he paid tribute to caddie Harry Diamond for his part in their "really cool journey" together.

Rory McIlroy
Image: McIlroy is only the third player to spend 100 weeks at the top of the rankings

The four-time major champion admitted his achievement was somewhat of an anticlimax as he had taken the week off, and he is only the third player to chalk up a century of weeks as the best player in the world since the rankings were introduced in 1986.

"I'm very proud to think that I've spent two years of my career at the top of the world rankings, which is a pretty nice feeling," he said ahead of his defence of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. "But Tiger's 683, I can't fathom.

McIlroy aiming for Sawgrass history
McIlroy aiming for Sawgrass history

Rory McIlroy is relishing the chance to become the first man to successfully defend The Players Championship title.

"I mean, it's just unbelievable. I just don't think anyone can speak highly enough of what Tiger did over that stretch of golf. It was just insane.

"The way I got to No 1 this time was sort of anticlimactic, there wasn't much of a fanfare. I got there through a mathematical algorithm more than anything else, but I still made sure to celebrate it and celebrate the milestone.

"I hadn't been in this position for over four years, so on the Sunday night of Riviera, I went out and made sure to have a couple of drinks with Harry and a couple of my friends.

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Image: McIlroy admitted the achievements of Woods in his prime were 'insane'

"Harry took over that caddie position in the middle of 2017 and basically we've been on that journey together, from injuries and not playing my best, all the way back to the top of the world. So it was important for me to sit down and have a few drinks with him.

"This was our journey and we did it, two guys that grew up in Holywood, Northern Ireland, playing golf together, and that we've done this is something that was really cool."

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McIlroy has not finished outside the top five in each of his four starts so far in 2020, but he conceded he cost himself two big chances of victory at Riviera, and again at Bay Hill last week, as he rued some final-round "untimely poor shots" which took him out of contention.

"I made triple-bogey at Riviera early on Sunday, and I made the two double-bogeys on the front nine last week," McIlroy added. "Just real untimely, poor shots. Riviera was very firm, as well, and if you missed it in the wrong spots, it got tricky, and I feel like that's what happened there and that's what happened at Bay Hill, as well.

"On the par-five sixth hole on Sunday, I hit a decent drive but didn't hold the fairway and tried to get the ball up as close as possible to the green so I had an easier third shot with the chip, and it went into the bunker and then I had a tricky shot.

Image: McIlroy is rueful of the costly mistakes that hampered his chances of victory at Riviera and Bay Hill

"Maybe playing the percentages a little more, I wouldn't have brought a seven into play on the fifth at Riviera, and then maybe staying short of that bunker on the sixth hole at Bay Hill last week, I wouldn't have brought the water into play with my next. So just those little things.

"When the courses are playing that firm and that fast, those are the tiny little margins that make the difference. Maybe just dialling it back that five per cent instead of trying to play the perfect shot to hit my next from, being okay with the 80-yard shot into the par-five, or the 40-foot putt below the hole. They're the things that make the difference, I guess."

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