HAINAN, China // Golf is entering a new competitive era with Tiger Woods set to be toppled from the No 1 spot after this weekend, Colin Montgomerie said yesterday.
Either Briton Lee Westwood or German Martin Kaymer, both in Montgomerie's successful European Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in Wales, will be crowned No 1 when the new rankings are released tomorrow, ending Woods's 281-week reign.
Kaymer, who won the US PGA championship this year, needs to finish inside the top two at the Andalucia Masters to take the top spot. Westwood, at home resting an injured calf, will become world No 1 if Kaymer does not achieve the top-two finish.
"Both Martin and Lee are deserving of the No 1 title," Montgomerie said at the Mission Hills pro-celebrity tournament in Hainan, in south China.
"I would say they are No 1 and 2 in the world. You can't knock Martin's and Lee's current form.
"It could mean Europe has one and two for the first time since the heady days when [Nick] Faldo, [Bernhard] Langer, [Ian] Woosnam and Seve [Ballesteros] were on top of that tree. This world competition being so close is fantastic and great for golf, [especially] with Phil Mickelson close behind and other Europeans coming through to join that band."
Montgomerie was quick to warn his European proteges that the former No 1 will roar back.
"It might be the end of Tiger's reign for a limited spell. I don't think he will be happy at being No 2 or 3 in the world," Montgomerie said.
"I am sure with the form he showed at the Ryder Cup he'll be back with a vengeance next year, winning majors again and will get to Jack Nicklaus's record. (Nicklaus won 18 majors; Woods has 14.) He hasn't gone anywhere.
"But once you are No 1, you want to stay there and you have to improve as the competition behind you gets better."
Montgomerie, who escaped serious injury in a car crash in Britain just over a week ago and was limping in Hainan, ignored his doctor's advice to vie for the US$1.28 million (Dh4.7m) purse.
"I am still getting flashbacks from the accident and my rib cage and hip were knocked out of position slightly. My hip is very stiff and is not quite right," he said.
"I had intense physio before I travelled and it was touch and go whether I would come. I semi-ignored medical advice because I wanted to come as I always enjoy it here."
He said the crash had given him a jolt and changed his outlook on life. "It was shock. It puts certain things into perspective. We have to be very, very thankful," he said.