August 4, 2014 11:48 am

Rory McIlroy moves to world No. 1; Tiger’s back problems linger

WATCH ABOVE: Rory McIlroy rises to the top with win at Bridgestone

Rory McIlroy rose to become the top player in the world, Tiger Woods hurt his back and Graham DeLaet caught the flu.

All three stories played out on Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational, part of the World Golf Championships, in Akron, Ohio, where McIlroy, who won last month’s British Open, continued his stellar play, bettering Sergio Garcia by shooting a 66 in the final round. The win elevated McIlroy past Adam Scott, who was the No. 1 golfer on the planet for 11 weeks.

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“You just try to win golf tournaments and my goal between now and the end of the year is to win as many tournaments as I can, not to finish number one in the world,” he said.

The win comes after the 25-year old Irishman won the British Open in dominant fashion at Royal Liverpool. Asked if this is the best he’s played, McIlroy said it’s close.

“I mean, it’s the most comfortable I’ve ever felt trying to close out a golf tournament out there today,” he said. “I felt normal. I felt like it was the first round or the second round. It didn’t feel like a fourth round. When I say mentally it’s the best I’ve ever been, I didn’t get ahead of myself.  I didn’t start to think about score.  I didn’t think about where I was in the tournament.  I just kept playing my shot after shot after shot.”

Graham DeLaet of Canada hits off the 17th tee during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club South Course on August 2, 2014 in Akron, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Canadian Graham DeLaet started the tournament strongly, but ended spending it in bed trying to recover from the flu. DeLaet, from Weyburn, Sask., started feeling poorly earlier in the week, and withdrew from the tournament on Sunday. He was resting, his agent said, in an attempt to recover from a fever.

But McIlroy’s win was overshadowed in some ways by Tiger Woods. The former world No. 1 was playing for only the third time since returning from disc surgery on his back. Woods had struggled all week at the tournament (which doesn’t have a cut like a standard PGA Tour event). Woods appeared to hurt his back on a shot during his second hole on Sunday, but he soldiered on, attempting to play through the injury.

“I just jarred it and it has been spasming ever since,” Woods told tour officials after withdrawing on the eighth hole.

Woods’ caddy drove him to his car, where he struggled to remove his golf shoes before driving away.

Many questioned Woods’ quick turnaround from major back surgery. He played one tournament before the British Open, where he finished at 6-over par in 69th place and showed little of the flair that led to 14 major championships.

Woods had a similar back surgery to the one DeLaet underwent in late 2010 after his rookie season. DeLaet tried to come back mid-way through the 2011 season, but struggled with his game and elected to stop playing. He returned in 2012 and emerged as one of the game’s great ballstrikers.

Woods now faces some significant uncertainties for the rest of the year. He is 217 on the FedEx Cup rankings and currently does not have a spot on the Ryder Cup team. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson is on record as saying Woods would be on the team if he’s healthy or playing well. Right now neither is true. And if he doesn’t make the FedEx Cup, it is quite possible Woods won’t play again until later in the year, when he could potentially play in the final World Golf Championship of the year.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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