Westwood revels in being 'the best on the planet'

LEE WESTWOOD has completed one of the greatest comebacks in sport by emerging from the abyss to reach the top of the golfing world.

The 37-year-old from Worksop was last night crowned the world's No 1 golfer, seven years after plummeting to a career-theatening ranking of 266th.

"When you're growing up and people ask what you want to achieve you say you want to be the best in the world," said Westwood last night after Martin Kaymer's failure to finish in the top two at Valderrama confirmed the Englishman as the man to end Tiger Woods's five-year reign as No 1.

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"Right now I can show people the world rankings and say I'm the best in the world, the best on the planet at golf.

"It's a fairly large achievement when you see the people who have gone before. It's an elite list.

"The last European to do it was Nick Faldo – it's a fairly exclusive category."

Westwood has not played a competitive shot since his inspirational role in Europe's Ryder Cup victory over the United States at Celtic Manor four weeks ago.

He will return to action, after resting a calf injury, at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai this week alongside Woods and Kaymer, the two men who could make his reign as world No 1 a short one.

His immediate task is to hold onto top spot before establishing a stranglehold in 2011 that would be aided by earning the one accolade his glorious career is so far missing – a major championship.

"Being No 1 doesn't add to the pressure in majors – it's a confidence boost if anything," said Westwood, who has finished in the top three in five of the last 10 majors he has contested.

"Winning majors is something you learn to do. You get yourself in position as often as possible. I'm at the age now where I've been through most things. If I get into position again I'll know what to do."

Westwood's ascension has benefited from a rankings system that rewards performances over the last three months and then the previous two years in descending order.

As well as his major near-misses, Westwood has won three times in the last 13 months, dating back to the October 2009 Portugal Masters.

That set up a chance to become European No 1 which he did in emphatic style by winning last year's Dubai World Championship and the Race to Dubai.

Then in June he ended a 12-year drought in America with victory at the St Jude Classic in Memphis.

"The nearer you get to the top of the world rankings the more you think about it," said Westwood, who reached No 5 in the world in 2000 after 12 wins in three years before starting a family, and a swing change brought about a dramatic slump that bottomed out in May 2003.

"I was 266th in the world – I know as well as anybody you can lose your form," reflected Westwood.

"You have got to clear everything out of your mind and take the right advice on board. There's a lot of people telling you what they think you should be doing."

Helping him to the top in the last two years have been Rotherham coach Pete Cowen and Bingley caddie Billy Foster, but the sheer willpower of Westwood to climb to the top cannot be underestimated.