Westwood now the world No 1

Updated: 2010-11-02 07:50

(China Daily)

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Westwood now the world No 1 

Tiger Woods of the US (left) lining up a putt on the 10th green as Lee Westwood of England looks on during the opening round of the British Open golf championship at the Turnberry golf course, Scotland, on July 16, 2009. For the first time in more than five years, Tiger Woods is no longer golf's No 1 player. Westwood assumed the top ranking on Oct 31, 2010. [Photo/Agencies]

Briton, No 266 seven years ago, replaces Tiger as the top golfer

SHANGHAI - Lee Westwood had little reason to think one year ago he could be No 1 in the world, a position that looked "unattainable" the way Tiger Woods had been dominating golf for so much of the decade.

Golf can take some peculiar turns, though, which Westwood knows better than most.

Westwood reached No 1 on Sunday for the first time. He ended a record run by Woods, who had led the world ranking for 281 weeks.

"Everyone thought it was unattainable," Westwood said during a conference call. "People go through different things in life, and form comes and goes. I know as well as anyone you can lose your form."

Westwood, at No 266 in the world seven years ago while fighting through a severe slump, became only the 13th player to be No 1 since the world ranking began in 1986, and the first European since Nick Faldo in 1994.

The 37-year-old Englishman is only the fourth player to get there without having won a major.

For now, this feels like one.

"Whenever you can sit down and say, 'I'm the best in the world right now,' it's a dream that everybody holds," Westwood said, calling it the most satisfying achievement of his career.

The final step was anticlimactic.

Westwood, who has finished only one tournament since the British Open while recovering from a calf injury, knew he would go to No 1 as long as PGA champion Martin Kaymer did not finish among the top two at the Andalucia Masters in Spain.

Kaymer tied for 21st, and when the German walked off the 18th at Valderrama, champagne began pouring in Westwood's home in England, where he shared the moment with his parents and about 20 friends.

Westwood is followed in the rankings by Woods, Kaymer, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker.

"Growing up, when people ask what you want to achieve, you turn around say, 'I want to be the best in the world,'" Westwood said. "Right at this very moment, I can show people the world ranking and say, 'Look, I'm the best in the world. I'm the best on the planet for golf at the moment.' It's a fairly large achievement when you look at the people who were No 1 in the ranking."

For the longest time, that was Woods.

Woods has been introduced as the world's No 1 player since June 12, 2005, the week before he finished runner-up in the US Open at Pinehurst No 2. He won the British Open a month later, and his ranking has rarely been threatened since.

The gap was as large as ever less than a year ago. When Woods won the Australian Masters, his points average in the world ranking was 16.17. Westwood was No 5 at 5.92 points.

It all changed so quickly for Woods, who struggled through his worst season on and off the course. Woods took a five-month breath to cope with confessions of extramarital affairs, which ended in divorce, and his game has not been the same. He has not finished better than a tie for fourth - in the Masters and US Open - and he has lost more ranking points than any player has earned.

Westwood could not have imagined getting to No 1 without having at least won a major, but he's not surprised he was the one who replaced Woods. He was runner-up in two majors (Masters, British Open), tied for fourth at The Players Championship and won the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.

Associated Press


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