Westwood's missed cut could end world No 1 status

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The Independent Online

Lee Westwood crashed out of the Commercialbank Qatar Masters in Doha yesterday as a player ranked 477 places below him became the shock leader.

Austrian Markus Brier, who had to return to the European Tour qualifying school last November, added a 66 to his 71 to reach halfway on seven under par in much less windy conditions than for the opening round. The 42-year-old is one ahead of the South African Darren Fichardt, winner of the title in 2003, but himself only 399th in the rankings after losing his tour card four seasons ago.

Westwood, the world No1, narrowly failed with a 30-foot eagle attempt on the final hole and, with a 75, missed the cut by one with his four over par, while last week's winner in Bahrain, Paul Casey, had the same score and bowed out by two shots.

Westwood's exit from the event in which he finished third last year followed his 64th-place finish in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago and it means he could be replaced at the top of the rankings this weekend by Martin Kaymer.

For that to happen, though, the German needs a top-two finish and even after improving by seven strokes on his opening 77, he made it into the closing 36 holes with nothing to spare and is still 10 adrift of Brier. Without a single top-20 finish on the circuit all last year, Brier came through the qualifying school by the skin of his teeth, but still needed a sponsor's invitation for a place in this week's field. "I'm very grateful and I hope I can make the most of it," he said. "Last year I didn't play well at all, but the game is still there." His round was bogey-free, while Fichardt mixed eight birdies with four dropped shots for a 68.

Defending champion Robert Karlsson (69) shares third place with Dane Thomas Bjorn, who shot a best-of-the-day 65 and England's Richard Finch, whose 69 included an eagle two at the driveable 307-yard 16th.