Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood go head to head for the world No 1 spot when the WGC Bridgestone Invitational tees off in Akron, Ohio, tomorrow. The pair were yesterday drawn together in the first two rounds at Firestone, with so much to play for. Woods, who has won at Firestone on his last four trips and a US Tour record seven times in all, is under threat from both Westwood and Phil Mickelson at the top of the rankings.
Westwood could become the first Briton to hold the No 1 accolade in 16 years even without winning on Sunday. If he comes second and Woods finishes out of the top nine then he will fill the void stretching back to Nick Faldo – providing Mickleson does not win. Woods and Westwood were playing partners in the first two rounds of the Open last year. Westwood outscored the American by seven and finished third, while Woods missed the cut.
Meanwhile, Mickelson could usurp Woods with a top-four finish as long as his rival is well down the field. But if the left-hander wins the tournament there is nothing Woods can do to prevent the end of his latest five-year reign.
Padraig Harrington and US Open champion Graeme McDowell, who were also partners on the opening two days of the Irish Open last week, tee off just after Woods and Westwood. Mickelson plays with McDowell's fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, who pushed him into second place with a dazzling finish at Quail Hollow in May.
The final major of the season, the US PGA, takes place at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin next week.