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Montgomerie hails Europes rise in 2010

European TourHONG KONG – Lee Westwood’s imminent rise to the world No. 1 ranking will cap a year in which golf’s balance of power has tipped from America back to Europe, Colin Montgomerie said on Tuesday.

Highlights included regaining the Ryder Cup, Graeme McDowell winning the U.S. Open and Martin Kaymer taking the PGA Championship. And though British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen was South African, he was also a European Tour member, Montgomerie noted at a charity golf event.

“It’s a changing of the guard over to Europe,” he said.

Westwood, a member of the winning Ryder Cup team, is expected to take over the top ranking from Tiger Woods on Nov. 1 – if he rests his right ankle injury for the rest of the month and if Woods follows his schedule of not playing before the HSBC Champions in Shanghai from Nov. 4-7.

With Kaymer poised to rise two spots to No. 4 after his third straight win on the European Tour at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last weekend, Montgomerie joked that Westwood should look over his shoulder.

“If (Kaymer) continues his way, he’ll probably beat Lee Westwood to (No. 1) if he keeps winning,” he said.

However, Montgomerie predicted that losing the top ranking would fuel Woods’ competitive drive. The 14-time major winner has held the top spot since 2005.

“Knowing Tiger as I do, Tiger will probably go out and win the HSBC world event,” he said. “He won’t like being No. 2 at anything.”

Montgomerie added the Ryder Cup win was also key to maintaining international sponsor interest in the European Tour.

“Economically, we needed the win,” he said. “Sponsorship is more difficult now than it’s ever been before in these economic times, especially in Europe. It’s important for us as the European Tour to show to the world … that we are a tour that is strong, very strong.”

Having fulfilled his mission as Ryder Cup captain, the 31-time winner on the European circuit said he wants to get his own game back into shape, noting that he has not enjoyed a top-10 finish in the past two years because his captaincy was so consuming. His world ranking has dropped to 417th.

Montgomerie joked about aspiring to become the oldest winner on the European Tour at 47.

“Every time I was on a golf course I was looking at the scoreboard looking for other players – where are they, what they’re doing, who they are,” he said. “I just want to try and concentrate on my own game.”