x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Lee Westwood says he is worthy of golf's No 1 rank

The Englishman has not won a major title yet, but he says consistency is key to reaching world No 1 in the wake of criticism of golf's ranking system.

Lee Westwood, posing with the Indonesian Masters trophy on Sunday, is optimistic about winning his first Major title this year.
Lee Westwood, posing with the Indonesian Masters trophy on Sunday, is optimistic about winning his first Major title this year.

ICHEON, SOUTH KOREA // Lee Westwood insisted he was a worthy world No 1 and said he was sick of being asked about failing to win a major, after some experts queried his right to the top ranking.

The Englishman moved back to golf's No 1 spot by winning the Indonesian Masters on Sunday, although he had to rely on Luke Donald's stumble at the USPGA Heritage Tournament at the weekend.

Westwood has been one of the game's more consistent performers in recent years but a major title has so far eluded him.

Some American columnists - along with Sir Nick Faldo, England's six-time major-winner and a former world No 1 - have queried the ranking system as Westwood and Donald, neither of whom have won a major, vie for the top slot. But Westwood, who leads the field at this week's US$3.2 million (Dh11.75m) Ballantine's Championship at Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul, said he was tired of justifying his position.

"The only thing that gets to me about answering that question is the amount of times I have to answer it - it gets on my nerves," Westwood said. "This might be the very last time I answer this question - it could become 'no comment' after this. The world rankings and the major championships are two completely separate things.

"I've had a lot of chances to win majors recently and it just hasn't happened. The rankings are about consistency and playing well week-in, week-out, which I tend to do."

However, Westwood also said the venues for this year's remaining majors - the US Open at Congressional Country Club, Maryland, the British Open at Royal St George's and the US PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club, Georgia - would suit him.

"I'm particularly good tee-to-green and at major championships you tend to have a big advantage if you hit a lot of greens," he said.

The 38-year-old was No 1 for 17 weeks before losing top spot to Germany's Martin Kaymer in February after what was, by his own admission, a poor run of form.

"It was nice to get back to No 1 but, to be honest, I hadn't played the first part of the year like the world No 1 and the world rankings are reflective of how you played," he said.

Westwood admitted the added demands put on him as No 1 had left him struggling to balance his schedule. "Obviously with being world No 1 there's a lot more responsibility, so you have a lot more things to do, more media commitments," he said.

"People want a lot more of your time so it becomes sometimes a bit difficult to cram everything in and leave time for working on your golf - what got you where you are. That's the toughest part."

Westwood now heads a world top 10 that features six Europeans including five from Britain and Northern Ireland, and he said the current standard of golf meant there was little room for error.

"There are a lot of very good players in the world, so you can't afford to have any weaknesses," he said.

"The secret to being world No 1 is consistency - all parts of your game have to be good."

Since Tiger Woods' epic 281-week reign at top spot came to an end last year, golf fans have been wondering who will come out on top of the tussle.

While Westwood and Kaymer have traded the top slot, Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Donald have all been within striking distance, while Woods has slipped back to sixth as he struggles for consistency.

This week Ernie Els, the three-time major champion, and local favourite YE Yang, who became the first Asian man to win a major when he triumphed at the 2009 PGA Championship, are set to push Westwood at the Ballantine's, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian, European and Korean Tours.