He's got the personality and attitude to match his skills.
Tiger Woods was the top-ranked golfer in the world from 2005 through 2009 before he lost his crown for one year to Lee Westwood in 2010. Luke Donald wore the crown in 2011.
Nothing against Westwood and Donald, who are both outstanding golfers, but they don't carry themselves around the course the way McIlroy and Woods are able to.
Call it charisma or intangibles; both McIlroy and Woods have them by the boatload.
Woods is now a worthy challenger to McIlroy in the world rankings. While he's right behind McIlroy, his game is not functioning at peak efficiency the way McIlroy's is.
Woods could make some repairs to his game, but McIlroy is still getting better at the age of 23.
It would take a major surge by Woods or any other golfer to take the No. 1 ranking from McIlroy.
Here are his report card grades from the 2012 golf season.
Money is not everything in golf—or the game of life—but it is important.
Nobody earned more money on the PGA tour in 2012 than McIlroy.
He sits atop the money-winning list with $8,047,952.
It wasn't even close, as he dominated the list by nearly $2 million over No. 2 finisher Tiger Woods, who earned slightly more than $6.1 million.
McIlroy earned his "A" grade because he was sensational in the final rounds of most tournaments he played. He averaged 68.83 in the third round and 69.83 in the final round. That kind of consistency will earn a golfer quite a bit of cash.
McIlroy picked up his second major tournament when he won the PGA Championship in August. He fired a 13-under par, 275 to win the tournament at Kiawah Island, South Carolina.
He trounced the field, beating second-place finisher David Lynn by eight strokes.
That makes two majors in two years for McIlroy. He dominated the 2011 U.S. Open in his first major championship.
Normally, a player who wins a major deserves an "A" grade in that category. But not McIlroy. He's got too much ability to get that grade with one win and three sluggish performances in the other majors.
He tied for 40th in the Masters, failed to make the cut in the U.S. Open and was tied for 60th in the British Open.
McIlroy has the "it" factor to his personality.
Arnold Palmer had it. Jack Nicklaus had it. Woods has it. So does McIlroy.
When you see his name atop the leaderboard in any tournament, you know he belongs there.
McIlroy carries himself like a champion. He knows he can play his best golf at the most important moments, and he doesn't have to sneak up on anyone to win.
He announces his presence with the first drive, and he keeps pressing for four rounds—or more—to get the victory.
It's called charisma, and he's got a lion's share of it.
McIlroy played in 16 events on the PGA Tour in 2012.
He had a sensational season in terms of consistent performance.
He won four tournaments, finished second twice and third once. He had 10 top-10 performances and made the cut in 13-of-16 tournaments.
He also recorded a huge victory for Europe on the final day of the Ryder Cup, helping lead the momentous comeback that gave Europe yet another win over its American competitors.
McIlroy's dominance on the tour emanates from his immense skill set.
He's been playing the game since he was a toddler, and he hit a 40-yard drive at the age of two.
That served notice that he could play this game.
Start with his driving ability. McIlroy averaged 310.1 yards off the tee this year, ranking sixth on the PGA tour.
He also has the finesse shots. McIlroy ranked second in accuracy on approach shots from 200 yards or less.
When he went for the green, McIlroy was successful 75.38 percent of the time, a figure that ranked second on the tour.
He also had a remarkable season when hitting from the greenside bunkers. He ended up an average of seven feet from the hole, ranking second on the tour.
Putting was one of the few stats he did not dominate. He ranked 65th in putting.
Should McIlroy improve in that vital area, there may be no catching him.