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.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
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

Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference