LONDON -- Rickie Fowler claimed his first PGA Tour title on Sunday as he won the Wells Fargo Championship in a playoff against D.A. Points and Rory McIlroy. But McIlroy’s consolation prize was a return to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.
As a result of McIlroy beginning his third reign, golf's world No. 1 spot has changed hands for the fifth time in just over two months. Fowler, who like McIlroy is just 23, climbed up to 24th in the rankings from his previous perch at No. 39. And Francesco Molinari improved from 46th to 29th after capturing the Spanish Open in Seville.
McIlroy took some solace from his return to the top of the rankings.
"That's nice. It's a little consolation," he said. "I would rather win the tournament, but yeah, it's good. I want to try and play well for the next few weeks and try and solidify my spot there at No. 1 and hopefully start by doing that next week and giving myself another chance to win."
Aside from McIlroy trading places with former No. 1 Luke Donald, there was little movement inside the top 10 this week. Lee Westwood easily held on to his solid grip of third by finishing in a tie for fifth at Quail Hollow, while Masters champion Bubba Watson remained fourth -- and the top-ranked American -- despite sitting out yet another week to spend time with his infant son.
Hunter Mahan stuck in fifth, just ahead of Steve Stricker. Tiger Woods is still in seventh, just ahead of 2010 PGA Champion Martin Kaymer. Webb Simpson jumped to ninth from his previous spot at No. 14 thanks to his fourth-place finish at Quail Hollow. Phil Mickelson remained 10th, but Simpson’s rise pushed Justin Rose from ninth down to 11th.
After Rose, the second 10 includes No. 12 Adam Scott (up from 13th), No. 13 Louis Oosthuizen (down from 11th), No. 14 Charl Schwartzel (down from 12th), No. 15 Jason Day (up from 16th), No. 16 Matt Kuchar (down from 15th), No. 17 Dustin Johnson, No. 18 Graeme McDowell, No. 19 Bill Haas and No. 20 Jason Dufner.
"It's been a wait, but I'm definitely still young, and hopefully this opens the door to many more," said Fowler after his victory. "But it's nice to be mentioned as a PGA Tour winner.
"There's a lot of people that have doubted or said you'll never win. There's all kinds of stuff. So it's nice to kind of shut them up a little bit."
Fowler closed with a 3-under-par 69, McIlroy with a 70 and Points a 71.
That it was those three who went into the playoff was down to the struggles of Simpson, who lives within a mile of the Quail Hollow venue and made most of the running this week, but could only manage a 73 on Sunday. That put Points in the driver’s seat, but his bogey on the 18th saw him slip back into a three-way tie with Fowler and McIlroy, who missed a 15-foot birdie putt to win on the 18th.
Fowler won the playoff with his second shot from the fairway, which left him around four feet from the hole. As his rivals managed tricky two-putts for par, Fowler sank his birdie attempt.
The win brought back memories of McIlroy's first PGA Tour win, which came at the same venue two years ago -- albeit in more spectacular fashion as he finished with a course-record 62.
"We've always had a great camaraderie, been good buddies. I definitely respect him as a player, and I feel like he respects me as well," said Fowler of McIlroy. "But I've had a lot of fun playing against him.
"We first played against each other at the Walker Cup in '07, and I look forward to playing against him and hopefully having plenty more tournaments like this where we're battling back and forth, and there's going to be times where he's going to come out on top and times where I come out on top," he added. "I look forward to possibly doing that for a long time."