Westwood has major ambition for 2011 after reaching No 1

Lee Westwood enters 2011 at the top of golf's world rankings. He tells Nick Westby how he intends to stay there and use the status to secure the one accolade his career is missing.

NOW he has got used to it, he has no desire to relinquish it.

Golf's No 1 spot was something Lee Westwood worked relentlessly to achieve, and although the enormity of it may have taken him by surprise, it is a status he is relishing, and one that befits him.

"I must admit it took a while to get used to it," said the 37-year-old from the humble surroundings of Worksop, who on November 1 ended the five-year reign at the game's summit by one of the greatest sportsmen of his generation, Tiger Woods.

"Playing in the HSBC in Shanghai (first event back) was quite amusing with tens of Chinese surrounded me shouting: 'Autograph No 1'.

"And in South Africa at Sun City I was quite proud to be announced on the tee as the world No 1.

"It hasn't changed me, but it has changed my world. A lot more people want a lot more of me and I'm having to start learning how to say 'no' sometimes. Coming from and living where I do and having been brought up the way I have, has definitely helped keep my feet on the ground."

The new world No 1 is in increased demand.

What are his thoughts on Tiger Woods? Should there be more European Tour events held in England? And how can golf be improved?

He has given answers to them all while ensuring that he does not ignore the burning question that haunts him still – when will he win a major?

It is the one stick with which he is beaten, no matter what his achievements; 33 victories worldwide, two European Tour Order of Merit titles and five Ryder Cup wins.

He is the 13th golfer to reach the top since the rankings were introduced and the only one without a major, though, he can take heart from the fact Fred Couples and David Duval had still to win their major championships when they were named No 1.

Not that he needs any reminding. It is why Westwood has spent longer than usual this winter working on his game.

The public appearances and interview requests may have swelled, but so has the appetite to deliver that defining answer and maintain his position at the game's summit.

"I'm thinking more about winning titles than defending the No 1 spot and if I do enough of one, it will take care of the other," he told the Yorkshire Post.

"Obviously I'd like to remain at No 1 for as long as possible and I will be doing everything I can to do that. The way the rankings work, there can't be many surprise packages because you can see everybody coming. I just expect there to be a lot of players laying claim.

"If you are the best at something you have to put yourself in the position of the people behind you and remember what that felt like. They all want something that I've got.

"You are aware that everyone is trying that bit extra to beat you. But if you work hard at something and achieve your ultimate goal of being the best in the world, you have to enjoy it and revel in it.

"So to retain it, I'm going to have to work harder. While being world No 1 is great, the defining thing and what everyone is judged by is majors, and I still haven't won one.

"Winning a major is not the be-all and end-all, but it is very important to me. I will feel there is something missing if I don't get one.

"All I can do is keep knocking at the door and hopefully one day it will open."

Helping Westwood bang loudly on the door – he has finished in the top three in four of the last five majors he contested – is his Yorkshire duo of advisers; Bingley caddie Billy Foster and Rotherham coach Pete Cowen.

Both have been inspirational figures in helping Westwood charge into the heart of the elite over the past two years, after the golfer himself dug deep to reignite his passion for the game when he slumped to 266th in the world in 2003.

Cowen has worked tirelessly on all aspects of the world

No 1's game, and the hard work continues as they seek to maintain the swing and the form that saw Westwood win twice in 2010, the most recent of which came after his ascension to the top of the rankings. Yet it is the short game where the major focus remains.

Westwood said: "My goal year-on-year is always to improve so I'll continue to work on every aspect of my game. Pete and I actually work on everything, but we place particular emphasis on the short game which has not always been as sharp as my driving and accuracy."

His achievements in 2010 were all the more remarkable considering he spent the second half of the year carrying a calf injury that eventually ruled him out of contesting the PGA Championship.

He still managed an influential role at Celtic Manor as Europe regained the Ryder Cup and won the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa to rubber-stamp his status as golf's top man.

And with the calf injury almost cleared, Westwood heads into 2011 as the man to watch.

"We knew it would be six months before it completely cleared, but I don't really have any problems with it and it won't be long before I'll be 100 per cent," he said.

"It did affect my swing, but I never changed it and now there are no problems. I was still very proud of my season and extremely pleased to end it the way I did with a win in Sun City.

"It ensured that I headed into the new year still on top of the rankings and that's given me a lot of confidence for the future."

Woods dominates world rankings

This is the list of world No 1s since 1986. The No 1 ranking changed hands 10 times between 1986 and 1990 and seven times in 1997 alone.

Tiger Woods held it for 264 weeks from 1999 to 2004, then after regaining it from Vijay Singh in June 2005, he held it for a record 281 weeks.

1 Bernhard Langer (Ger) 3 weeks (1986); 2 majors

2 Seve Ballesteros (Esp) 61 weeks (1986-89); 5 majors

3 Greg Norman (Aus) 331 weeks (1986-91, 94-98); 2 majors

4 Nick Faldo (Eng) 98 weeks (1990-94); 6 majors

5 Ian Woosnam (Wal) 50 weeks (1991-92); 1 major

6 Fred Couples (USA) 16 weeks (1992); 1 major

7 Nick Price (Zim) 44 weeks (1994-95); 3 majors

8 Tom Lehman (USA) 1 week (1997); 1 major

9 Tiger Woods (USA) 623 weeks (1997-2004, 2005-10); 14 majors

10 Ernie Els (Rsa) 9 weeks (1997-98); 3 majors

11 David Duval (USA) 15 weeks (1999); 1 major

12 Vijay Singh (Fij) 32 weeks (2004-05); 3 majors

13 Lee Westwood (Eng) 9 weeks (2010-11); 0 majors