Tiger sniffs out new territory as world number two
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Tiger sniffs out new territory as world number two

For the first time in more than five years, Tiger Woods became reacquainted with life away from the number one spot in the official world rankings.

other Updated: Nov 02, 2010 12:03 IST

For the first time in more than five years, Tiger Woods became reacquainted with life away from the number one spot in the official world rankings.

The 14-times major champion was deposed by Britain's Lee Westwood when the world rankings were released on Monday, but Woods can return to the top should he win this week's WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

For the moment, though, the 34-year-old American is well aware that a mediocre 2010 season without a single victory would eventually result in one outcome.

"As far as the ranking is concerned, yeah I'm not ranked number one," Woods told reporters on Monday. "In order to do that, you have to win tournaments and I didn't win this year."

Speaking after he had played an exhibition match with Japan's Ryo Ishikawa at Yokohama Country Club, Woods said he was adjusting to not being the top-ranked player.

"As far as emotions go, it is what it is," he added. "You have to win in order to become number one in the world and you have to win a lot to maintain it. This is the way it goes."

Woods had been the game's leading player for the previous 281 weeks, and a total of 623 in his career, before he was finally toppled by Englishman Westwood.

The American's private life unravelled amid sordid revelations of serial philandering at the end of last year, an unexpected chain of events that led to the break-up of his marriage and erratic tournament golf.

His aura of invincibility on the course was severely dented and he ended his 2010 PGA Tour campaign without a victory for the first time since joining the circuit in late 1996.

In many ways, it was something of an anti-climax when Woods was dethroned by Westwood, who was at home nursing a lingering calf injury after competing only three times since he finished second at the British Open in July.

The Englishman became only the fourth player to become world number one without winning a major title, and many feel third-ranked German Martin Kaymer is a worthier candidate after clinching this year's U.S. PGA Championship.

Model of consistency

Although Westwood has been a model of consistency over the last two years with four finishes of third or better in the majors, Kaymer has triumphed six times in that period, including four victories on the European Tour this season.

"Kaymer should be number one," Tiger Woods's former swing coach Butch Harmon, who now works with fourth-ranked Phil Mickelson among others, told Reuters on Monday.

"If Phil had taken half the year off like Westwood did, would he be number one? Did Westwood win a major this year, or any year? I think not."

Asked if he was surprised Woods had stayed at number one for as long as he did during 2010, Harmon replied: "Yeah, he didn't play (for much of the year) so he stayed at number one. The system sucks."

Whatever the faults of the ranking system, the battle for the label of world number one is likely to be extremely volatile over the coming months and Westwood could be deposed by any of three players by the end of this week.

"All of the top four in the rankings -- Lee, Tiger, Martin and Phil -- can go number one with victory at the HSBC," Ian Barker, the European Tour's director of information services who manages the official rankings, told Reuters.

"And the situation will remain very fluid next week when Lee, Martin and Phil compete at the Barclays (Singapore Open) and Tiger defends the JBWere (Australian) Masters."

Although Woods has clearly struggled with his game for much of the year, his recent work with new swing coach Sean Foley seems to be paying off.

He produced his best golf of the season in the last-day singles at the Ryder Cup in Wales, where he covered 15 holes in a sizzling nine under par to complete a 4&3 win over Italian Francesco Molinari.

"I like where my game is headed," said Woods who will be competing in three more events before the end of the year. "I like the pieces of it and how they're falling into place.

"I've done some pretty good work with Sean ... and I just took a month off after the Ryder Cup so it was nice to get that break. It was a long, frustrating year but in the end it turned out that everything's headed in a positive direction now."

First Published: Nov 02, 2010 12:01 IST