Lee Westwood began life as world number one with a sparkling 66 in the WGC-HSBC Champions first round on Thursday and told Tiger Woods he could blame his own brilliance for losing the top ranking.
The 37-year-old Briton, who ended Woods`s 281-week reign at the summit last weekend, played through the niggling pain of ankle and calf injuries to sit just one shot behind Italian Francesco Molinari at the top of the leaderboard.
Westwood, Woods, who started with a 68, Martin Kaymer and Phil Mickelson occupy the top four places in the rankings and a win for any one of them this week would guarantee the number one spot.
"I think the world rankings are reflective of how competitive world golf is at the moment. Nobody is out-and-out world number one," Westwood told reporters after playing his first competitive round since last month`s Dunhill Links Championship.
"I think that`s partly to do with Tiger not having played quite so well this year and partly to do with Tiger having made everybody else elevate their game," he added.
"Tiger`s a victim almost of his own brilliance. We have all had to work harder and we have closed the gap, I guess."
Westwood said he was still not 100 percent fit and applies iced cold packs to his ankle every night to boost the healing process.
"As the round goes on, it starts to ache and I lose control and power a bit," he said. "I have to continually remind myself when I`m swinging out there to sort of reinforce it," he said.
"I like to go out there and just sort of free wheel and play with a clear mind and I have to sort of consciously think about it all the time."
Westwood, who offset a lone bogey with seven birdies, said he did not feel under any extra pressure to defend his new position as the man to beat.
"I don`t think I need to reinforce why I`m world number one. I didn`t really go out there on Thursday with any particular thought to perform like the world number one," he added.
"I think you get there as a result of good performances but it`s nice show everybody there is a particular reason why I got to this stage. I think I did that on Thursday ."
Woods shot a solid 68 to sit three shots behind Molinari in a tie for sixth, a stroke ahead of American compatriot and defending champion Mickelson and four clear of Germany`s Kaymer.
Woods overcame a first-hole bogey to roar back into contention with five birdies.
"It felt good today. The things that I`ve been working felt good. I hit a lot of good golf shots," Woods said.
"I got to number one in the world by winning golf tournaments and I`ve had that sustainability for a number of years by doing that. The whole idea is to win golf tournaments and this is no different. The reason why we tee it up is to win."
One shot behind Westwood were Sweden`s Henrik Stenson, Japan`s Yuta Ikeda and South Korean Noh Seung-yul.