Don’t write Woods off as elite player, says new world No. 1 Westwood

tiger woods, lee westwood
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Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood were paired together at the U.S. Open last summer, and will face off again this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Phil Casey
PA Sport


Published: Monday, November 01, 2010 | 7:44 p.m.

Lee Westwood insists that Tiger Woods shouldn’t be written off after deposing the American as world No. 1.

Westwood was on Monday confirmed as Europe's first No. 1 since Nick Faldo in 1994 after Martin Kaymer failed to produce the top-two finish he needed in the Andalucia Masters to claim top spot himself.

But Woods, Kaymer and Phil Mickelson could all make Westwood's reign at the top a matter of days rather than weeks at this week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where all four players are in action.

And Westwood knows it would be foolish to write off 14-time major champion Woods, who has struggled badly since the sex scandal that erupted last November forced him to take a long break from the game.

"I would not write Tiger off as quickly as that," Westwood said. "He has gone away and come back before. He will be there or thereabouts. If anyone can put a run together it's so close they could take the No. 1 spot.

"But it's taken me a long time to reach world No. 1, I'm not going to worry about who I am going to lose it to,” he added. "This week is going to be very exciting for golf, with four people having a chance to get to No. 1, but I like those kind of rivalries."

Westwood's achievement is all the more remarkable given the calf injury that has hampered his season, but the 37-year-old was in a confident mood.

"It feels as good as it has for three or four months," Westwood added. "It's not quite right, but it's nearly there. I have not played a lot so I'm going to be very rusty, but I'm not using that as an excuse. "I've been hitting balls and hitting it well and I'm looking forward to getting out to China. Being world No. 1 will give me that extra urge, if I needed it.

"It's a great honor and a big responsibility. It certainly sounds and feels good right now,” he added. "When you are growing up and people say what do you want to achieve, everyone says I want to be the best in the world. Right at this moment I can show people the world rankings and say I am the best on the planet."

Woods, meanwhile, admits his poor form means it comes as no surprise to lose his No. 1 ranking.

"I'm not ranked No. 1. In order to do that you have win golf tournaments and I didn't win a golf tournament this year,'' Woods said on Monday in Japan, where he played an exhibition event before heading to Shanghai.

"That's how I got there in the first place and that's how I maintained that position for a long time,” he added. "Hopefully I can win some events -- I'm playing three more -- and get it turned around. As far as emotions, it is what it is. As I said, you have to win in order to become No. 1 in the world and you have to win a lot to maintain it. That's just the way it goes.''

Woods' last victory came in the Australian Masters last November, just days before revelations emerged about his private life following a car crash outside his house in Florida. He is due to defend his title in Melbourne next week and also play in his own Chevron World Challenge in California at the start of December.

"Hopefully I can end on a good note,” he said. "I'm looking forward to the next three events, I've done some pretty good work with Sean (Foley, his coach) since the PGA Championship.''