Golf's Fab Four ready to cross swords

The first encounter between Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods since they switched spots at the top of the world ranking was not exactly the momentous occasion some thought it might be here yesterday.

A pair of photographers crouched into position on the far end of the range at Sheshan International Golf Club, where Westwood was quietly hitting wedges and Woods was quickly approaching from the putting green.

"Westy... Billy," Woods said to the new No 1 and his caddie, Billy Foster. Woods never stopped walking. "Tiger," Westwood responded, turning his head briefly before settling over his next shot.

They have been friends for as long as they have been on their respective tours, and the exchange was similar to countless others. The only difference was the pecking order in the world rankings.

There has been much talk since Westwood ended the American's 281-week reign on Monday, with Woods' former coach Butch Harmon, particularly scathing about the Englishman's ascension. Harmon said the ranking system "sucked", before adding: "Did Westwood win a major this year or any year? I think not."

In contrast, when asked whether Westwood was a worthy No 1, Woods told the BBC yesterday: "Absolutely. Look at where he's finished in the majors. He hasn't won one but he's come so close. He's been by far the most consistent of the players in the majors the last two years and it's just a matter of time for Lee [until he wins a major]. He's made enormous leaps in his game."

However, Woods is just one of three men who could ensure Westwood takes a leap backwards on Sunday. The top of golf is so congested at the moment that four players – Westwood, Woods, Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson – could end the week at No 1 without even winning this WGC HSBC Champions event. If Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk had travelled over to China for this WGC event, they also would have had a shot at No 1.

It's possible that the highest finisher among Westwood, Woods and Kaymer will be crowned No 1, provided they are in the top 20. Meanwhile, Mickelson needs to finish in the top two. Golf is no longer about birdies and bogeys these days, it requires a calculator as the maths is hellishly complex.

To kick off the festivities this week, the latest version of the "Fab Four" gathered on Shanghai's riverfront yesterday and touched swords in a photo opportunity to depict what organisers hope will be an epic battle for the summit. The ranking scenario is reminiscent of 1997, when four players – Woods, Norman, Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie – were all in the hunt for the No 1 spot around the US Open at Congressional.

The first time Woods topped the order, he lasted up there a full week before being replaced by Els, who was supplanted by Norman a week later, and then it went back to Woods. It rotated among those three over the next year before Woods took over.

Of course, that was a long time ago, although Woods claimed his desire to win remains as strong as it always has. And with 14 majors he still has Jack Nicklaus's record haul of 18 in his sights. "It's the highest benchmark there is," he said. "It took Jack over 20 years and I haven't been playing that long. At the end of the day, hopefully I'll have more than 18. I've still got loads of great years ahead of me."

Westwood will just be praying there is not four great rounds ahead of Tiger. Westwood tees off tomorrow in the company of Mickelson and Y E Yang at 9.45am (1.45am GMT), while Woods' slot is 20 minutes earlier with Els and the Ulsterman Graeme McDowell.

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
i100
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments