Are golf's British world number ones cherished as they should be?

Andy Murray and Rory McIlroy
Andy Murray has won three majors, one fewer than Rory McIlroy

Andy Murray's rise to tennis world number one is rightly being lauded as one of British sport's greatest achievements, and it offers a timely reminder to appreciate those who have climbed to such heights in golf.

The Scot is the first British number one in his sport, but five golfers from these isles - Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy - have been officially known as the best in the world.

Maybe it is just me, but, on scaling golf's summit, none of this quintet seemed to garner the universal praise and adulation that is rightly heaped on Murray's shoulders.

Yes, their achievements were noted and were a big deal in the golfing village, but they didn't quite transcend in the same way.

Perhaps it is purely down to Murray's excellence when compared with the rest of his compatriots. Historically, Britons have not been great at tennis, whereas in golf we have an enviable record.

Producing five of the 19 world number ones since the rankings began in 1986 speaks volumes for the talent of our very best golfers.

And it was interesting to hear veteran sports columnist Patrick Collins put Murray's achievement into context on BBC Radio 5 live's Sportsweek.

"I would say he is up there with boxer Lennox Lewis and Nick Faldo as people who have achieved extraordinary things over time," said Collins.

Nick Faldo of England with The Claret Jug the Open Championship trophy after his win by one shot over Paul Azinger and Rodger Davis the 116th Open Championship played at Muirfield on July 19, 1987
Sir Nick Faldo won six majors, including the Open in 1987

Let me stress, this is not a golf versus tennis piece - what would be the point of that?

But hearing Collins' assessment that Murray has moved alongside Faldo at the pinnacle of British sport is pretty thought-provoking from a golfing perspective.

While Faldo's achievements were given due credit by this hugely respected sportswriter, we could ask if they are cherished by our sporting public as much as they should be.

And do we give due credit to McIlroy who, as a four-time major winner and still only 27, has spent 95 weeks at the top of the rankings?

Faldo won six majors, and spent 97 weeks as world number one, including the whole of 1993. Only Tiger Woods (683 weeks) and Greg Norman (331) have spent longer at the top of the game.

Then there was the diminutive Woosnam, who won the 1991 Masters and spent 50 weeks with the number one tag on his back. At last his stellar career has received the belated credit of induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Faldo set an enduring template, though, by providing a blueprint of work ethic and determination that spawned another generation of English excellence which included players such as Westwood and Donald.

Neither has won the major they crave, but the statistical system that identified the likes of Woods as a number one also told us there were times when these two Englishmen were the best on the planet.

On that basis, no-one should question their right to have reached the top of the standings.

Donald's was an extraordinary achievement - in an era of big hitting and power play, he showed a different way to succeed and was number one for a total of 56 weeks.

He ended Westwood's combined 22-week reign by beating him in a play-off to win the 2011 PGA at Wentworth. Donald then spent much of the following year taking turns with McIlroy, as he became the second youngest golfer (after Woods) to hit the summit.

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Luke Donald wins dramatic PGA Championship play-off

The Northern Irishman is back on an upward trajectory that leaves him behind only Jason Day, and there seems little reason to suggest McIlroy will not return to that number one spot in the near future.

When and if he does, it should be more than the sporting footnote it will probably represent.

Number one, in any sport, is a staggering achievement - just as we are recognising with Murray.