Lee Westwood must wait three more weeks until he is confirmed as Britain's first world No 1 in 16 years. Yet if Martin Kaymer's incredible run of form continues then it could become one of the shortest reigns on record.
With a three-stroke victory in the Dunhill Links Championship here at the Home of Golf yesterday, the German has won his third tournament in as many starts. The scale of that feat is probably best measured by the fact that no European has completed a successive hat-trick since Nick Faldo in 1989 and that no American has since a certain Tiger Woods in 2006.
Yet it is the Bernhard Langer comparison which inevitably continues to resonate after Kaymer added this prestigious title to those of the Dutch Open and, more pertinently, to the USPGA Championship. What a run this has been for the 25-year-old, who now rises to world No 4. The £503,000 first prize he collected in the shadow of the famous R&A clubhouse here last night took his earnings from his famous trio to nearly €2m (£1.76m) and establishes him as the overwhelming favourite to win the Order of Merit title in Dubai next month.
It was made all the more impressive by the fatigue he felt after the exertions and celebrations at the Ryder Cup. "I could feel the alcohol on Tuesday, but I spoke to my dad and we talked about how I had to finish better than I did at the Open," said Kaymer, who came seventh here in July. "It always was my dream to win here and a final-round 66 to do so made it that bit more special."
Kaymer is not playing in this week's Portugal Masters but will attempt a four-timer in Spain next week. That would tee him up nicely for his own shot at becoming No 1 at the WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He may even find Westwood waiting there to defend his new status. The Englishman confirmed he would be pulling out of Portugal and, because of the vagaries of the ranking system, that ensures that in three weeks' time he will be toppling Woods off the perch he has held for more than five years.
"I'm not allowing myself to think about it until it happens," Westwood said. "But yes, it is something I've always dreamed of."
The only way it will not happen is if Woods decides to play in the next three weeks, which is on the extremely doubtful side of unlikely. If, and when, he doesn't, it will leave Britain to boast the world's top-rated player for the first time since Nick Faldo in 1994. It may not be achieved in the manner in which Westwood wanted but, as he said: "I'll take it anyway."
Westwood ventured out here yesterday, determined to gain the second-place finish he needed to displace Woods. Alas, the calf injury which forced him to take seven weeks off before last week's Ryder Cup took its toll again once again as he slumped to a 73 and a tie for joint 11th.
Afterwards, he denied that his ascent to the golfing summit would be at all devalued when he is eventually crowned on 31 October. "No, not all," he said. "I'd had a great year up until getting injured. Look at the rankings points for this year – I was leading that by a mile before I got my injury."
Westwood will now resume rehab under the expert eye of his fitness coach, Steve McGregor. He is not sure when he will return. "At the earliest, Shanghai, but maybe not until Dubai [three weeks later]," he said. "You won't see me coming back until I can practise fully and do myself justice out here. I woke up this morning and it was urting more than the other days, so all in all I don't suppose seven under is too bad."
With Westwood not figuring, it was left to two young compatriots to lead the challenge to Kaymer. John Parry, who won his maiden title two weeks ago, was leading by one with nine holes left, but a number of slip-ups led to him falling back to third. Danny Willett actually levelled with a 50-footer for eagle on the 14th but he couldn't live down the stretch with Kaymer, who strode out to finish 17 under. On the evidence of the last few months, very few will manage to live with him.