Golf is entering a new competitive era with Tiger Woods set to be toppled from the number one spot after this weekend, European Ryder Cup winning captain Colin Montgomerie believes.
Either Briton Lee Westwood or German Martin Kaymer, both in Montgomerie`s successful European Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor in Wales, will be crowned number one when the new rankings are released on Monday, ending Woods`s 281-week reign.
Kaymer, who won the U.S. PGA championship this year, needs to finish inside the top two at the Andalucia Masters to take the top spot. Westwood, at home resting an injured calf, will become world number one if Kaymer does not achieve the top-two finish.
"Both Martin and Lee are deserving of the number one title," Montgomerie said at the Mission Hills pro-celebrity tournament in Hainan, southern China on Saturday. "I would say they are number one and two in the world.
"You can`t knock Martin`s and Lee`s current form.
"It could mean Europe has one and two for the first time since the heady days when (Nick) Faldo, (Bernhard) Langer, (Ian) Woosnam and Seve (Ballesteros) were on top of that tree.
"This world competition being so close is fantastic and great for golf, (especially) with Phil Mickelson close behind and other Europeans coming through to join that band."
Montgomerie, however, was quick to warn his European proteges the American will roar back.
"It might be the end of Tiger`s reign for a limited spell. I don`t think he will be happy at being number two or three in the world," Montgomerie added.
"I am sure with the form he showed at the Ryder Cup he`ll be back with a vengeance next year, winning majors again and will get to Jack Nicholson`s record. He hasn`t gone anywhere.
"But once you are number one, you want to stay there and you have to improve as the competition behind you gets better. I am sure Lee and Martin will seek to do so."
Montgomerie, who escaped serious injury in a car crash in Britain just over a week ago and was limping in Hainan, ignored his doctor`s advice to vie for the US$1.28 million purse.
"I am still getting flash backs from the accident and my rib cage and hip were knocked out of position slightly. My hip is very stiff and is not quite right," he said.
"I had intense physio before I travelled and it was touch and go whether I would come. I semi-ignored medical advice because I wanted to come as I always enjoy it here."
He said the crash had given him a jolt and changed his outlook on life.
"It was shock. It puts certain things into perspective. We have to be very, very thankful."