Journal De Bruxelles - Morikawa, Hovland chase World No.1 spot at PGA Valspar

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Morikawa, Hovland chase World No.1 spot at PGA Valspar
Morikawa, Hovland chase World No.1 spot at PGA Valspar

Morikawa, Hovland chase World No.1 spot at PGA Valspar

Playing partners Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, the world's number two and three players, will be chasing the summit of the global rankings at the US PGA Valspar Championship starting Thursday.

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Five of the world's 10 top players will compete at Innisbrook's par-71 Copperhead course at Palm Harbor, Florida, with Spain's Jon Rahm in jeopardy of losing the number one spot.

American Morikawa, the reigning British Open champion and 2021 PGA Championship winner, and Norway's Hovland, who won at Mayakoba in November and the World Challenge in December, are each at the highest ranking of their respective careers.

Morikawa or Hovland, together in Thursday and Friday groups, would become world number one for the first time with a victory. Morikawa would take the top spot with as low as a three-way share of second -- provided Hovland isn't the winner.

"It would be huge," Morikawa said. "It would be definitely a part of my career I would remember but I want to stay there as well.

"Anyone would love to get there and everyone would see the satisfaction in the work and everything you have put in. But whether I get there next week or whether I get there whenever or whether I don't get there, the work is not going to stop because I feel I can still get better.

"I want to be the best in the world but that's going to require a lot of consistency, a lot of other areas of my game to be a little more consistent. I've shown it in certain events where I'm able to put it together but I want to keep doing that, keep working on those little things."

Morikawa said thoughts of taking the top spot have snuck into his thoughts and prevented his best efforts in prior events.

"I think the biggest thing for me is just I need to focus on this week," he said. "I say that every time, but there have been times where it crept in, where you think about world number one, you think about what I need to do.

"I really want to focus on (winning) this week because I want to win. It feels like it has been a while."

- Consistency 'very hard' -

American Justin Thomas, ranked eighth, became world number one for just over a month in 2018. The 2017 PGA Championship winner appreciates the feat of reaching the top spot since he hasn't been there in a while.

"It feels like a really long time," Thomas said.

"I've looked at it before, especially in terms of the points that I've had. There's a lot of years and a lot of months and weeks where I would have had the number one in the world ranking at other times. But that's unfortunate. It doesn't matter. It's an irrelevant kind of thing.

"I just think it's really a huge accomplishment and it's very hard to get to. I don't think I under-appreciated how hard it was to get there. I may have under-appreciated how hard it is to stay there.

"To just consistently be that consistent, that good, all the time is something that's very, very hard to do."

Australian Cameron Smith, coming off a victory on Monday in the final round of the Players Championship, withdrew from next week's WGC Match Play event, saying he wanted to rest and spend more time with his mother and sister in their first time together in more than two years.