Two Irishmen in the world’s top 10? It could happen. And it could happen as soon as next Sunday if Rory McIlroy clinches the Race to Dubai with victory in the inaugural Dubai World Championship.
Second place in Sunday’s Hong Kong Open helped the 20-year-old Holywood starlet jump four spots to a career high 13th in the Official World Golf Ranking and lead Lee Westwood by €128,173 in the battle to become European No 1.
Determined to add to his Dubai Desert Classic win earlier this year, McIlroy said: “I won’t be trying to protect a lead or finish ahead of this guy or that guy. I want to win. If I win, it will take care of everything.”
McIlroy went top in the Race to Dubai and leapfrogged Westwood when he racked up his seventh top 10 finish from his last eight starts in the Hong Kong Open.
He’s an amazing 60 under par for his last four starts and could make the world's top 10 by capturing a win worth €1.8m - €830,675 for the tournament and nearly €1m from the Race to Dubai bonus pool.
With around 56 world ranking points for the winner, a win could take McIlroy as high as 6th in the world if Harrington is worse than 34th, Henrik Stenson is worse than 11th and Sergio Garcia isn't second alone.
He could also make the top-10 with a fifth career runner up finish but that will depend on Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Geoff Ogilvy and Ernie Els.
Whatever happens, McIlroy is realising his boyhood dreams on a weekly basis.
Three years ago, he was asked about being compared with Tiger Woods and said: “Everyone knows his record and it's pretty unlikely that I am ever going to do anything like that but I would love one day to be top-10 in the world, someday maybe.”
What seemed like a dream in 2006 became an attainable goal earlier this year when McIlroy won the Dubai Desert Classic and moved to 16th in the world.
Despite some skepticism from the American media, his stock soared when he reached the last eight of the Accenture Match Play in Arizona in March and was praised to the hilt by Geoff Ogilvy and Ernie Els.
The Tiger Woods comparisons returned but McIlroy said there was a long way to go before he could become No 1 in the world: “I still have got a long way to go. And my main goal is to try to get into the top-10 in the world.”
A few weeks later, Woods himself tipped McIlroy to become world No 1 some day and the Irish starlet has slowly proved that he has the consistency to become a serious threat at any level.
Since the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, he has racked up seven top 10s from eight starts and is 81 under par for his last 28 stroke play rounds. That’s a stroke average of 68.53.
His putting cost him again on Sunday and on the evidence of what we have seen recently, the world’s had better hope that he takes his time finding top form with the blade.
As it is, he can become the youngest winner of the European money title since the 19 year old Seve Ballesteros in 1976.
His only rivals for the money title are Westwood, Germany’s Martin Kaymer and England’s Ross Fisher.
If McIlroy, Westwood or Kaymer wins the Dubai World Championship, they cannot be caught by any of their challengers.
If Fisher wins, Kaymer would be eliminated but McIlroy or Westwood could become No 1 by finishing second at the Earth Course.
If none of the quartet wins, the calculators will be required to sort out the winner.
Ireland has six players in action with McIlroy joined by Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Peter Lawrie, Gareth Maybin and Damien McGrane.
Having moved up to 50th in the world last Sunday, McDowell will be keen to improve his ranking in his last individual tournament this season.
Harrington is still looking for his first win of the season outside the Irish PGA while Lawrie, rookie Maybin and McGrane will be eyeing top 30 places in the Race to Dubai and an exemption into the Open at St Andrews.
As for McIlroy, he will probably say that passing Harrington in the world rankings means little in the grand (slam) scheme of things.
He refused to claim the bragging rights when he beat Harrington by two shots in an exhibition at Lough Erne in July, insisting sensibly: “I don’t have three majors. I am nowhere near his league yet.”
If he becomes European No 1 on Sunday, McIlroy will edge a little closer to Harrington’s league exactly two years, two months and two days after turning professional.
What’s in Rory McIlroy’s Bag?: Pro V1x, Titleist 909D2 driver (8.5), 906F2 fairway metals (13, 18), ZM irons (3-9), Vokey Design pitching wedge (48), Spin Milled sand (54) and lob (60) wedges, Scotty Cameron Studio Select Fastback putter.