x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Westwood's moment of reckoning arrives

Briton could dethrone Woods at the top - but so could Mickelson if things go his way as three-way battle for world No 1 hots up.

If Lee Westwood, of England, wins on Sunday, Tiger Woods will have to finish second in the event to hold him off for the top spot.
If Lee Westwood, of England, wins on Sunday, Tiger Woods will have to finish second in the event to hold him off for the top spot.

Lee Westwood has no desire to be remembered for second-place finishes, but another one this week could be very special - it could make him world No 1. And now the US Masters and British Open runner-up knows precisely what needs to happen in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio for him to get there.

For the first time since the 2005 Players Championship, three players are battling for the top spot at the same event. On that occasion it was Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els. This time it is Phil Mickelson, Woods and Westwood. No European has been No 1 since Nick Faldo in 1994. But if Westwood wins on Sunday, Woods will have to finish second in the event to hold him off. And if Westwood is second on his own he would take over at the top providing that Woods is worse than ninth and Mickelson does not win.

As for Mickelson, who has already missed several chances to dethrone Woods for the first time, a victory would guarantee it. Even a top-four finish would be good enough if Woods is outside the top 37. The tough part for both the challengers is that Firestone is the course where Woods has triumphed on his last four visits and seven times in all, a US Tour record. But he has also failed to win anywhere so far this season and was only 23rd in the British Open in his last start, three weeks ago.

Westwood was a distant second behind Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews, but went into the championship with a ruptured calf muscle. He flew to the States from Manchester yesterday morning after what his website called a "busy break" - a short holiday in Cannes, visiting the Lee Westwood Golf Academies and officially unveiling the revamped Kilton Forest Golf Club in his home town of Worksop. Woods, meanwhile, is back needing a wild card to the Ryder Cup because of a player who has never won on the US Tour.

Jeff Overton's second place in the Greenbrier Classic lifts him from 10th to fourth on the US points table. As a result, Woods has dropped to ninth position. Only the top eight after the US PGA, which begins next week, earn automatic spots in the team. Corey Pavin, the US captain, will then wait for three weeks before naming his four picks for the Celtic Manor match on October 1-3. On that day, Woods is, in all probability, likely to be invited even if the player does not earn an automatic berth.

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