Lee Westwood warns Tiger Woods capable of reaching top again

Lee Westwood insists Tiger Woods should not be written off after deposing the American as world No 1, but the Englishman said he intends to revel in his new status as "the best golfer on the planet."

• Lee Westwood became the first European to be ranked number one in the world since Nick Faldo 16 years ago Picture: PA

Westwood was officially confirmed yesterday as Europe's first number one 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.

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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 a sex scandal which erupted in November last year 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 number one 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.

"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 which has hampered his season, but the 37-year-old was in confident mood as he headed to Shanghai.

"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.

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"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 honour and a big responsibility. It certainly sounds and feels good right now. 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, says it was no surprise to lose golf's No 1 after struggling through a disappointing year.

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The American, who had been the world's No 1 golfer for 281 weeks, said: "As far as the world ranking is concerned, yes, I'm not ranked No 1 in the world. In order to do that you have to win and I didn't win this year."

Woods played an exhibition at Yokohama Country Club yesterday against Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa. He was on his way to the HSBC Championship which starts Thursday at Sheshan International. Woods said he was doing his best to adjust to being no longer No. 1."As far as the emotions go, it is what it is," Woods said. "To become No. 1 you have to win and win a lot to maintain it. That's the way it goes."