Westwood new world No. One as Kaymer falters in Spain

Monday, November 1, 2010

BERLIN - Lee Westwood must have known by Saturday that come Sunday he would top the world golf rankings, taking over from American super-star Tiger Woods.

For 281 weeks in a row (and a total of 623 weeks) the American has been at the pinnacle of the golfing world, but a horrid time since revelations of his personal life at the end of last year resulted in a drastic loss of form. In the meantime, Britain’s Westwood, German Martin Kaymer and left-handed American Phil Mickelson draw closer and closer to Woods.

Kaymer, who won his first major in August, when he beat Bubba Watson in a play-off to take the PGA Championship, would have taken over from Woods as the number one had he finished first or second in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama which finished Sunday.

The 25-year-old German, who came to Spain having won the last three tournaments he entered, however, finished outside the top 20 to give Westwood the number one spot, which he obtained even though he did not play on the weekend.

Monday, when the new rankings will be released, the 37-year-old Westwood will become only the 13th player to be ranked the top player in the world since 1986, when the rankings began.

The Briton turned professional as a 20-year-old in 1993 and won his first tournament on the European Tour three years later when he took the Volvo Scandinavian Masters in a play-off.

Since then, 19 more European Tour titles have followed. He has also won twice on the PGA Tour and four times on the Japan Golf Tour.

Although the only tournament he won this year was the St. Jude Classic in Memphis Tennessee, beating Robert Garrigus and Robert Karlsson in a play-off, he has managed to finish in the top five on six occasions.

His best finishes in the majors have been runners-up in the Masters and the Open this year and third places in the US Open and the PGA Championship.

Westwood is the first European to top the rankings since Nick Faldo in 1994 and it is the 10th time that Woods is no longer the top-ranked player in the world.

The longest duration that Woods has not been number one since first taking over in 1997 has been for 26 weeks when Vijay Singh reigned supreme.

Whether Woods is denied the top spot for a similar long time will depend on play at this week’s HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where Westwood, Kaymer, Woods and Phil Mickelson, who could have toppled Woods in 12 tournament, go head-to-head.

Kaymer sent a text to Westwood, who has been struggling with a calf injury for a few months, and congratulated him as soon as he had finished his fourth round in Valderrama Sunday.

“Lee is the best player in the world right now. He has had a lot of trouble these last few months and I’m pretty sure if he had not he would have been number one,” said Kaymer before the weekend.

Westwood is one of just four players to be number one without having won a major, but, according to British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, the Briton deserved the number one spot.

“Being world number one without winning a major just shows you how well you are playing. It is all about consistency. I always think it is better to play every week and be in contention than to play six or seven weeks and win one.

“It is amazing the way he has played and I believe he will win one. Being number one without winning a major will give him more confidence,” said the South African at a sponsors event.

All three others who were ranked number one before having won the Masters, the PSG, the Open or the British Open (Ian Woosnam in 1991, Fred Couples in 1992 and David Duval in 1999) went on to win a major and it seems likely that Westwood could well follow in their footsteps.

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