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Could Woods challenge McIlroy for No. 1?

Rory McIlroy made official with his victory in the Honda Classic what we already knew – he’s the best golfer in the world.

When McIlroy ended Luke Donald’s impressive 40-week run as the official No. 1, it was the culmination of a relentless climb by the former Wells Fargo Championship winner. Like a sunrise over the ocean, you could see it coming for a while.

The question is how long might McIlroy remain the man?

He’s going to be there a while.

But Tiger Woods will have something to say about it.

When Woods shot a closing 62 to finish second to McIlroy at the Honda Classic, his best final round on the PGA Tour, it was the strongest evidence yet that his talk about “being close” is genuine. Pebble Beach suddenly seemed a long time ago.

It’s McIlroy, though, who has assumed the place Woods occupied for more than a decade.

There’s a purity to McIlroy, both in how he plays and how he carries himself. There’s still a hint of boyishness about McIlroy and a grace that seems to come naturally. Watching him hit shots, it appears effortless. He doesn’t fight the game the way so many players seem to do.

McIlroy’s spectacular 62 at Quail Hollow almost two years ago was a thing of beauty. It was also a welcome to the future moment.

Even when McIlroy failed on Sunday at the Masters last year, shooting a final-round 80 that made him seem momentarily both young and fragile, he responded with his record-setting victory at the U.S. Open two months later.

If there were questions about either his talent or his toughness, they were answered in 72 holes at Congressional.

Not unlike Woods in his prime, McIlroy changes the expectation level.

Remember how much fun that was?

We got a reminder on Sunday and, if we’re lucky, a hint of things to come from both of them.