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Singh ready to assume mantle of World No.1

For 332 weeks, Tiger Woods has comfortably worn the title of No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, according to the World Golf Rankings. That is one week longer than Greg Norman was No. 1 back in his heyday.

And, Woods' reign could come to a screeching halt this week at the NEC Invitational at storied Firestone Country Club.

The best golfer on the PGA Tour this week, regardless of what the World Rankings say, is Vijay Singh. He's won five times, including last week's PGA Championship. He is one-tenth of a point behind Woods and if he finishes ahead of Woods and Ernie Els -- ranked third in the Rankings -- doesn't win, Singh will be alone on top.

"I don't really care about the rankings anymore, let the rankings guys take care of that," Singh said. "The way the rankings are set up, they don't reward a player who plays a lot, like me. I feel like I have player of the year wrapped up and if that's not enough, well, my main focus this week is on this tournament."

Woods, too, knows what could happen over the next four days on this monster of a par-70 layout. He's won only once this year, has struggled in the majors, and has been far from the dominating player he was just a couple years ago.

As he begins play today, he's not only protecting his No. 1 status, he's also trying to extend his Tour-record streak of 129 consecutive cuts made.

"It only took me about eight months to get to No. 1 in the world," Woods said. "To get to 129, it's obviously taken more than just eight months. That's why I'm more proud of that. As far as the No. 1 ranking, yeah, it's certainly a point of honor. You've had to play hard and play well, and for me to have done it as long as Greg has, I've been very consistent and I think that's the one thing I'm very proud of. And I think that's a reflection of the cut streak, too. I kept racking up points. When you win, that kind of takes care of itself."

Like Singh and Els, Woods knows there is absolutely nothing he can do about the rankings or the cut streak -- except play good golf.

"Sure, there's more to play for this week, but hey, winning takes care of it," he said. "All you have to do is go out there and win tournaments. That's how I got it. That's how Vijay has narrowed the gap, and that's how Ernie has narrowed the gap. You have to win tournaments; that's the best way to do it."

The heavy favorite in the pre-tournament betting this week would have to be Singh, who took advantage of a late Justin Leonard collapse in Sunday's final round to win the PGA Championship in a playoff.

"I think that was the biggest accomplishment I've ever had in my whole career," Singh said. "I never thought, at any stage, that I was going to come back and putt so well so quickly and win golf tournaments. That made my year."

But this elite field of 76 players is deep enough, and of sufficient quality, for any player to put an end to the discussions about what might be. Somebody like Jay Haas, for example.

"I guess I never really gave much thought to what's going on up there," Haas said. "Obviously, Tiger was just head and shoulders above everybody there for quite a while but as long as I've been out here, I've seen the ebb and flow of the great players. They really play well for a long time and then ease off, and somebody else comes forward. Everybody is trying to knock the No. 1 off the perch."

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