Monday, November 1, 2010

Tiger Woods Yields No. 1 Golf Ranking to Lee Westwood, Capping Torrid Year

Tiger Woods’s record five-year reign as the world’s top-ranked golfer is over, marking another low point in a torrid 12 months for the 14-time major champion.

Lee Westwood took over top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time, becoming the only European player to top the list since Nick Faldo in 1994. Westwood was ranked as low as 266th seven years ago and is only the fourth player to gain the top spot without winning a major tournament.

“When you’re growing up and people say, ‘What do you want to achieve,’ everyone says ‘I want to be the best in the world,’” Westwood said in comments posted on the European Tour website. “Right at this moment, I can show people the world rankings and say ‘I am the best on the planet.’”

Westwood, 37, hasn’t played since Oct. 10 as he continues to recover from a calf injury that’s limited him to one tournament finish since July’s British Open. U.S. PGA champion Martin Kaymer would have become No. 1 had he finished first or second at yesterday’s Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Spain. The German, who had won his past three events, was 21st.

Woods drops to No. 2 and Kaymer remains third in the rankings. Phil Mickelson is fourth and Steve Stricker rounds out the top five.

Woods’s personal and professional life began to unravel after he crashed his Cadillac into a fire hydrant while leaving his Florida home early on Nov. 27. The incident sparked revelations about repeated marital infidelity, which Woods confessed to in December, leading to his divorce in August. Woods lost sponsors including Accenture Plc, AT&T Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette razors, and failed to win a tournament this year after taking a break of almost five months.

Record Run

Woods, 34, spent 281 consecutive weeks as No. 1 and 623 weeks in total atop the rankings. His next tournament is the World Golf Championships’ HSBC Champions in China from Nov. 4-7, according to his website. Westwood is also scheduled to play in the tournament.

“I have a great relationship with Tiger,” said Westwood. “We have mutual respect and have always got on well, on and off the course. I give him a little bit of stick and he gives me a little.”

Westwood is the third British player to be world No. 1, after Faldo and Ian Woosnam, and the 13th in all since the rankings began in 1986.

He’s had 20 career wins on the European Tour and topped its money list in 2000 and 2009. He was runner-up at this year’s Masters Tournament and British Open.

Westwood won June’s St. Jude Classic for his second victory on the U.S. PGA Tour and last month helped Europe beat the U.S. in the Ryder Cup.

The 25-year-old Kaymer finished the Andalucia Masters in a tie for 21st place at 7-over par. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, the U.S. Open champion, won the title at 3-under, two shots ahead of Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen, Damien McGrane of Ireland and Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland.

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