The top four players in golf are in Shanghai battling not only for the WGC-HSBC Champions title, but for the right to be called the No. 1 golfer in the world as well.
Newly No. 1-ranked Lee Westwood, No. 2 Tiger Woods, No. 3 Martin Kaymer and No. 4 Phil Mickelson are all in China. The star-studded event may be the last big tournament of the year, although the JBWere Masters tournament in Australia next week draws some big names, as does the Chevron World Challenge in California early in December.
If the first round at the Sheshan International Golf Club proved anything on Thursday it is that this course may have a hard time fighting off the best players in the world. Of the 78 players in the field, 34 managed to shoot under par and another 17 were even par. Only 27 players shot over par, and no one worse than a seven-over 79.
Of the top four, Westwood did the best, shooting a six-under 66 to see him in second place, one shot back of first round leader Francesco Molinari.
Woods shot an impressive 68, riding four birdies on the front nine to a tie for sixth place. Mickelson is also sitting in nice position after his first round score of three under par.
Of the top four, only Martin Kaymer, who has arguable played the best of the four all year long, struggled a bit, shooting an even-par 72.
Westwood's round was perhaps the most surprising, as of a couple tournaments and the Ryder Cup, he has already played competitive golf that last few months. Perhaps the fact that he has taken on the title of the world's top-ranked golfer has inspired him to stay there.
Woods, who lost the No. 1 ranking he held for over five consecutive years, would not only like to get that title back, but he'd like to win a golf tournament. Tiger has not won in 2010. He has won a tournament in 14 consecutive years coming into this year. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus hold the record at 17 each.
Mickelson had 13 opportunities this year to take over No. 1 from Woods and failed each time. Perhaps the fact that it isn't Tiger on top might help Phil this weekend finally ascend that elusive No. 1 mountain.
Kaymer is simply playing the best golf in the world right now, and at 25 years old that is scary. If he doesn't reach the top this weekend you can be sure he will at some point.
If Westwood can manage to stay atop the hill after this weekend, it will perhaps be his greatest accomplishment of the year. If not, he will have a much shorter stay at No. 1 than he could have ever imagined.
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