WHO’S ON FIRST? Not me, according to golf’s new Big 3
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup

Golf’s new big three has arrived: Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day. We’ve been awaiting the official changing of the guard in pro golf for some time now, especially with the aging and ailing Tiger Woods, and the idea of those three young men — all more polite, likable and humble than the other — competing against each other and vying for major titles for the next 15 years or so is quite exciting. I mean, I’m just giddy typing those words.

But, which player is the best on the planet? Well, the ever-changing no. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings says it is McIlroy, who returned to the top position — despite skipping The Barclays — two weeks after Spieth supplanted him with his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.

On Thursday in their pre-tournament press conferences at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, each of the new big three was whisked into the interview room and asked the same question: Who is the best player in the world?

Interesting enough, none of the three named himself.

“Jason (Day) is No. 1 right now,” said Spieth. “He’s playing the best of anybody right now. Until somebody dethrones him — hopefully me this week — he’s still that guy to beat right now.”

What do you say, Rory?

“If you went on the one-year system, you’ve got to say Jordan,” said McIlroy. “If you were to do it more on short-term basis, you’d have to say Jason.”

Your turn, Jason.

“Rory, isn’t that right?” said Day. “In the world ranking, Rory right now…I can’t say I’m the No. 1 player in the world right now. I just can’t do it. There’s two guys ahead of me that have played phenomenal golf over the last two years. I’ve played good golf, but I really played fantastic golf just in the last seven weeks.”

Rory, Jordan or Jason — who cares which is no. 1 as long as they continue competing at such a high level against each other as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player did several decades ago? I mean, golf hasn’t been this compelling to watch in a long time.

The no. 1 ranking is up for grabs again this week, with all three having a mathematical chance of reaching the top spot (or staying there for McIlroy). Day, who has won three times in his last four starts, has to win at TPC Boston, where he has had past success, to supplant McIlroy and Spieth.

“I’m on the verge of (No. 1),” said Day, who boldly declared in 2007 shortly after turning pro that he would dethrone Woods as the best player in the world. “It’s been great. No. 1 is my No. 1 priority in life.”

Even though the neo-big three can’t agree on who’s the best player in the world, they appear to embrace their position as the game’s elite.

“It was the Big One,” said Spieth, referring to McIlroy’s long reign atop the rankings. “After the Masters, it was the Big Two. And Rickie (Fowler) won the Players, then it was the Big Three. The U.S. Open happened and it was the Big Two. And Jason won three out of four weeks, it’s the Big Three. I just hope I stay in the ‘big’ moment, whenever it changes next. I hope I’m the one staying in that space.”

Added McIlroy: “In terms of titles and majors won, I’m a little bit ahead of them. But in terms of where their games are at the minute and mine, I feel like we’re all pretty close. I feel like the level I played at last year, they saw that, and they’ve attained that, and then it’s always trying to set that bar a little bit higher each and every year. And I think that’s probably what we’ll see over the next few years.”

Grab a seat and don’t forget the popcorn.