Martin Kaymer can end Tiger Woods’ five-year run as the top-ranked golfer with a win at the European Tour’s Andalucia Masters at Valderrama this week.
The 25-year-old German also can become No. 1 if he finishes in second place, tied with no more than one other player. But no matter the result in southern Spain on Sunday, Woods’ reign will end.
If Kaymer doesn’t finish high enough, Lee Westwood of England will replace Woods even though neither are playing this week. His ranking-points average over the past two years will go above Woods’ on Monday.
Kaymer, who has won four tournaments this year, including his first major at the PGA Championship in August, insists that climbing to the top of the rankings is not a top priority.
“Of course, it is one of the goals I want to achieve in my career,” he said. “But at the moment, I am concentrating on trying to win the Race to Dubai.”
That goal, too, is well within his grasp. With five events remaining on the European Tour, Kaymer has substantial lead over Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell on the money list.
McDowell, the U.S. Open champion, also is competing at Valderrama. That gives the new tournament two major champions in the field, chasing the $690,000 first prize.
However, even if Kaymer wins his fourth straight event in Spain to add to the PGA Championship, Dutch Open and Dunhill Links titles, the Race to Dubai won’t be settled until next month.
Three of the final four tournaments carry a winner’s purse of more than $966,000.
Kaymer has won more ranking points than any other player this year to give himself a chance of becoming Europe's first world No. 1 since Nick Faldo in January 1994.
"Martin is an incredible player and we are very close friends,” said Alvaro Quiros, who will tee up on his home turf at Valderrama. “His mindset and his attitude on course are just perfect.
"His game is not spectacular, but his putting certainly is, at least for the last two years,” he added. “He is living in a sweet moment and that reflects on his demeanor, on the way he walks."
Westwood remains focused on his own return to action in Shanghai.
"I rested my leg completely after the Alfred Dunhill (Links Championship at St. Andrews the week after the Ryder Cup) and now it's the best it's felt in four months. Now I'm really looking forward to coming back in China,” he said. "I had my leg up in the air for a week and then started doing gym work. I've just made sure it's properly rested this time. Now, once I've shaken off a bit of flu, I'll be ready to practice."
Amid all the talk of the No. 1 spot, however, there remains a big prize to play for at Valderrama as well as all-important places in the Race to Dubai standings.
Quiros, 12th on that list, will hope to use the familiar surroundings to boost his return to form after sharing fifth place at St. Andrews two weeks ago.
"I am really looking forward to playing at home. The course is in great condition and the greens are very fast. Obviously this course is always perfect,” he said.
"I am comfortable at Valderrama and know the greens well. I am aware that the greens are difficult. I don't think anybody can play four straight rounds without a problem on these greens. We often find ourselves putting defensively."