By winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Sunday, Hunter Mahan prevented Rory McIlroy from taking over as world No. 1. McIlroy, who lost to Mahan by 2&1 in the final, needed to win the tournament to oust reigning No. 1 Luke Donald.
Mahan, however, said he believed it is only a matter of time before the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland climbs to the summit.
"He'll get there," said Mahan. "He's phenomenal, he's really talented. He'll be No. 1 eventually."
Because of the strength of its field and fickleness of its format, the Accenture Match Play had the potential to shake up the rankings. And while McIlroy stayed in second, Mahan climbed 13 spots up to ninth – the highest he’s ever gotten.
Early-round loser Donald remained on top, though his margin over McIlroy shrunk considerably. Lee Westwood, who McIlroy beat in the semifinals, remained third, with Martin Kaymer still in fourth place. Steve Stricker, in fifth, and Webb Simpson, in sixth, held their spots, but Dustin Johnson climbed from 10th place up to seventh.
Adam Scott remained in eighth, while Phil Mickelson, who had been ninth, dropped out of the top 10 after a one-week stay, and is now 11th. Jason Day is now 10th, having fallen three spots from seventh place last week.
The second 10 includes Mickelson, No. 12 Charl Schwartzel, No. 13 Bill Haas, No. 14 Matt Kuchar, No. 15 Graeme McDowell, No. 16 Nick Watney, No. 17 Sergio Garcia, No. 18 Brandt Snedeker, No. 19 K.J. Choi and No. 20 Keegan Bradley.
Mark Wilson, who lost to Mahan in the semifinals, jumped up to No. 24 from his previous spot at No. 42. And Tiger Woods slipped out of the top 20, dropping a spot down to No. 21.
"It feels good," Mahan said of his victory. "I didn't realize how difficult it is to win this week because it is six matches and you're playing against the best players in the world."
McIlroy played the last seven holes of the final in 5 under par with an eagle and three birdies, but that all came after he had three bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine.
"I just left myself too much to do," said the U.S. Open champion. "It wasn't to be, but I didn't have my best game with me this week."
Next up is the Honda Classic, where the PGA Tour’s Florida Swing begins. Donald is taking the week off, but both McIlroy and Westwood are scheduled to play – and either of them could take over as No. 1 with a victory.