Golf stars bemused by fuss over battle for No 1

The weekly race for the top ranking in world golf has been

engrossing for European golf fans if not for the players

involved.

With Tiger Woods slipping down the rankings, the field has

closed at the top.Very little separates the new leader, Lee

Westwood, from pursuers Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer.

Second-ranked Donald, who could leapfrog fellow Englishman

Westwood by winning the World Match Play Championship this week,

says ”it’s certainly different to the days when Tiger had such a

big lead … but we’re less fussed about it than everyone

else.”

The 38-year-old Westwood is taking it all in stride.

”Everything I read is, ‘So-and-so could go past Lee Westwood.’

Unfortunately that’s how it is when you’re No. 1,” he said. ”You

can only go one way. There is never a line where it says, ‘Lee

Westwood can go past …’ because there is nobody in front of

me.

”I just have to live with it and I’m not really worried about

it. We are all out here with the purpose of trying to win golf

tournaments, really.”

Westwood, who spent 17 weeks at No. 1 from October until

February, fell back, then regained it from Kaymer last month, knows

he’ll keep the top spot if he makes the final at the Finca Cortesin

course in southern Spain.

If Westwood is eliminated in the semifinals, Donald can move to

No. 1 by winning the tournament. Third-ranked Kaymer of Germany

will go to No. 1 if he wins the event and Westwood doesn’t qualify

for the last four.

With all three players part of Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning team

of 2010, it’s very much the friendliest of rivalries.

”It’s obviously a great accolade to be No. 1 – I would love to

be No. 1 – but certainly it’s something I’m not really thinking

about,” said Donald, who has never topped the rankings. ”I think

No. 1 is more up for grabs now for many people. Obviously week to

week, it seems like it’s between the three of us the last couple of

months, but certainly there’s people lurking behind who can get in

the mix as well. It’s just something added to the mix, something to

shoot for. Just something to be interested in for the fans.”

Donald said he’d prefer to meet Westwood in Sunday’s final, even

if such a scenario meant he’d stay below his compatriot in the

rankings.

”I’d love to play Lee in the final,” Donald said. ”It’s more

satisfaction when you can take down the best player in the

world.”

Both players got off to impressive starts at the World Match

Play on Thursday. Westwood routed Anders Hansen of Denmark 6 and 5,

while Donald beat Ryan Moore of the United States 4 and 3.

Kaymer didn’t have it all his own way against Y.E. Yang, but

came through a 2-and-1 winner.