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Westwood No. 1 - For Now
Even though he didn't play this past weekend, Lee Westwood supplanted Tiger Woods as the No. 1-ranked player in the world. The Englishman ended a record run for Woods who held the top spot in the World Golf Rankings 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."
The 37-year-old became the first European since Nick Faldo in 1994 to attain the position. "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.
Westwood made his ascension because fellow European Tour player, Martin Kaymer of Germany, did not finish in the top two in last weekend's Andalucia Masters in Spain. The 25-year-old tied for 21st, and when the German walked off the 18th green at Valderrama Golf Club, the champagne flowed 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 and 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."
Though he didn't win a major this year, Westwood was runner-up in two majors (Masters and British Open), tied for fourth at the Players Championship and won the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.
Westwood will be in Shanhai, China, for this week's HSBC Champions, which will also feature Woods, Kaymer and Mickelson. Depending on the outcome of that tournament, Westwood's reign at No. 1 could be temporary.
"This could be very exciting for the game of golf," Westwood said of the China event. He's certainly going in with some momentum thanks to his ascension to the top of the rankings. "It's a confidence boost if anything," he said. "It's confirmation I'm working on the right thing."