Friday 27 April 2018

All eyes on top spot fight

Tiger Woods 281-week reign as Number 1 comes to an end on Monday. Photo: Getty Images
Tiger Woods 281-week reign as Number 1 comes to an end on Monday. Photo: Getty Images

Martin Kaymer goes into to this week's Andalucia Valderrama Masters with the destiny of golf's world number one ranking in his hands.

The German will tee off tomorrow knowing he alone can stop Lee Westwood being the man to succeed Tiger Woods when the American's 281-week reign at the summit comes to an end on Monday.

Kaymer needs a win or a second-placed finish - shared with no more than one other player - to claim top spot, and has won his last three events starting with the USPGA Championship.

Westwood will not be present at Valderrama as he completes his recovery from a calf injury and a bout of illness, but will be monitoring events closely as he waits to discover whether he will make his November 4 comeback at the WGC-HSBC Champions as number one.

To do so would represent a staggering comeback after he at one point dropped out of the top 200, and comes on the back of three wins and a further 21 top-10 finishes in the last two years.

Kaymer, meanwhile, has won more ranking points than any other player this year to give himself a chance of becoming Europe's first world number one since Nick Faldo in January 1994.

Alvaro Quiros, who will tee up on home turf at Valderrama, said: "Martin is an incredible player and we are very close friends. His mindset and his attitude on course are just perfect.

"His game is not spectacular, but his putting certainly is, at least for the last two years. He is living in a sweet moment and that reflects on his demeanour, on the way he walks."

Westwood remains focused on his own return to action in Shanghai, and said: "I rested my leg completely after the Alfred Dunhill (Links Championship, at St Andrews) and now it's the best it's felt in four months. Now I'm really looking forward to coming back in China.

"I had my leg up in the air for a week and then started doing gym work. I've just made sure it's properly rested this time. Now, once I've shaken off a bit of flu, I'll be ready to practice."

Amid all the talk of the number one spot, however, there remains a half-million euro top prize to play for in Sotogrande as well as all-important places in the Race to Dubai standings.

Quiros, 12th on that list, will hope to use the familiar surroundings to boost his return to form after sharing fifth place at St Andrews two weeks ago.

He told the European Tour website: "I am really looking forward to playing at home. The course is in great condition and the greens are very fast. Obviously this course is always perfect.

"I am comfortable at Valderrama and know the greens well. I am aware that the greens are difficult. I don't think anybody can play four straight rounds without a problem on these greens. We often find ourselves putting defensively."

Press Association

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