WENTWORTH, England (AP) — England’s players in the top eight have their eye on the No. 1 ranking while Tiger Woods is sidelined with a sore neck and bruised reputation.
Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey spoke of their ambitions Wednesday, a day before the start of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Phil Mickelson, back at No. 2 after his victory at the Masters in April, is the biggest threat to Woods’ 258-week reign atop the rankings. Westwood, at No. 3 for the first time in his 16-year career, knows a win this weekend will keep him in the hunt.
“For me, the No. 2 and No. 1 positions are more achievable now than they have been in the last few years,” Westwood said. “Tiger’s performance, schedule and things like that are unpredictable at the moment.
“Phil is obviously a world-class player and has already won a major this year, but you know his performances are very much up and down. And the world rankings are all about consistency.”
Consistency has become the cornerstone of Westwood’s game during the past year in which he landed atop Europe’s first Race to Dubai money list. In recent weeks on the U.S. tour, he’s finished second at the Masters and led the Players Championship going into the final round.
The sixth-ranked Poulter, who moved into the top 10 for the first time after winning the Accenture World Matchplay at Dove Mountain in February, believes it is not just a two-man race to claim Woods’ crown.
“If I win the BMW this week, then I will be at five,” he said. “I have just got to keep playing well every week to try to get as close to Tiger or Phil, even Lee.
“But it’s closer now than it ever was because of the points that Tiger has dropped over the past 12 months being away from the golf course. I can see anybody in the top 10 in the world now, if they over the next three months have a couple of wins and a couple of big finishes, getting to the points that Tiger has now.
“I include myself in that bracket. There are 64 points available this week and with the U.S. Open and the British Open coming up, 100 points in each of those is huge. Knock one of them over and then you are definitely going to be climbing the board pretty quickly.”
Casey will attempt to successfully defend a title for the first time in his career at the BMW. Last year, he birdied the final two holes for a one-stroke victory over Ross Fisher.
The eighth-ranked Casey agrees with Poulter that the line behind Woods is getting closer by the week. However, he admits that the $8.5 million worth of course changes designed by Ernie Els at Wentworth in the past year could make that task even harder.
In 2009, he won playing a long running ball. But with most of the greens protected by cavernous bunkers, a higher ball flight could be a big advantage.
“You can’t call upon happy memories and shots that you might have used 12 months earlier,” he said. “But this course is going to suit Ian Poulter because his short game is phenomenal, and when you do miss greens here now, you have to be able to get out of bunkers and get up and down.”