ICHEON, South Korea, April 27- Lee Westwood said his confidence is sky-high as he bids to cement his second stint as world number one — and silence his critics — with victory at this week's Ballantine's Championship.
Westwood, who will become the first reigning number one to compete in South Korea, lost the top spot in February but his spirits were buoyed by Sunday’s three-shot Indonesian Masters win, which put him back on top of the rankings.
The 38-year-old Englishman headlines a strong field at the $3.2 million event at Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul, including Asia’s first Major-winner Y.E. Yang, three-time Major champion Ernie Els and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter.
Westwood earlier admitted he was fed up with questions about his failure to win a Major, after some commentators queried whether he deserved to be considered world number one.
And Westwood, who dislodged Tiger Woods as number one last year but ceded the position to Martin Kaymer in February, said he was hoping to maintain his world-beating form in front of the golf-crazy South Korean galleries.
"I have great expectations. I played well last week. My confidence is high," he said.
"If I play as well as I played last week, and keep that kind of form, hopefully I’ll be in a position Sunday afternoon with nine holes to go and have a chance to win the tournament."
After nearly 20 years on the professional circuit, Westwood said few courses held any surprises, but Yang warned the up-and-down mountain course could prove a challenge.
"Going from the second shot onto the green, the green area itself is very large, but because there is some undulation, the green itself, where you can land the ball, might be a little bit smaller than you would expect," he said.
Yang, the 2009 PGA Championship winner, said that while big names such as Westwood, Els and Poulter would all be in the hunt, familiarity with local conditions could help South Korean players make a charge.
"I wouldn’t count out the Korean players because they are doing very well at the moment. In fact, there are good players out there on any course, in any country," he said.
Colourful Englishman Poulter said he was backing himself to do well in the event despite the presence of the world number one.
"Lee is the man to beat this week. He’s the best player in the world but I don’t look at that. If I play well for four days, I’m going to win the tournament," he said.
And how to beat the world number one? Simple.
"Birdie every hole. That will definitely win," Poulter said.