By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 22, 2007
MIAMI, March 21 -- Tiger Woods sounded more like a star-struck sports fan than the most dominant player at his own game Wednesday. It's not every day that the world's No. 1 tennis player walks in Woods's gallery.
Woods was so delighted to see his friend Roger Federer, he pulled the Swiss star out of the crowd and invited him inside the ropes and onto the fairway to watch him play most of his back nine practice round for the CA Championship, which begins at Doral's Blue Monster on Thursday morning. Federer is in the area playing in the Sony Ericsson Open on nearby Key Biscayne, and Woods likely will return the favor and watch Federer play Saturday night.
"They don't want to have people inside the ropes. . . . I'm sure I'll get fined for it," Woods said, smiling. "I don't mind paying, because he was starting to get hassled pretty good and I didn't think that's why he came out here. He came out here to enjoy himself and watch me slap it around a little bit."
Federer had dinner on Woods's yacht Tuesday evening and showed up at the golf course with hundreds of other spectators this morning to watch Woods prepare for this 73-player World Golf Championships event. Woods has won the last two Doral tournaments, which until this year had been regular, full-field events on the PGA Tour, including a memorable Sunday final-group duel against Phil Mickelson here in 2005.
"It's great to have [Federer] out here," Woods said. "I think he's a wonderful supporter of golf, and I think it's pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery."
More dominant than Woods?
"What he's done over the last three years -- last week he lost [to Guillermo Cañas at Indian Wells, snapping a 41-match winning streak], but other than that, he's only lost five or six matches for three years," Woods said. "That's pretty good."
Woods hasn't been that bad himself, and certainly has been the most dominant player in his own sport far longer than Federer. Woods, who turned professional in 1996, has been the No. 1 player in golf for a total of 434 weeks, including one streak of 264 consecutive weeks. Federer has been the No. 1 player in tennis for 162 straight weeks.
Over the last three years, Federer has won 94 percent of his matches, including eight of 12 Grand Slam events, a run that is unmatched in modern tennis history. The only minor blemish on his résumé has been his inability to win on the clay of Roland Garros in the French Open. Woods, on the other hand, has won each of golf's four majors at least once, and 12 majors overall to Federer's 10 Grand Slam titles.
Woods, who has played a little tennis himself, was asked if it was more difficult to win a professional golf tournament than a tennis tournament.
"If you're physically dominant [in tennis], you can dominate somebody," he said. "In our sport, you can't physically dictate what somebody else is going to do. You can't all of a sudden hit a drive out there past him and say, 'Okay, I win the hole.' That doesn't happen. So a person who is more physically gifted and physically dominant can actually just overpower somebody, and that just does not happen [in golf]. So it's a little more difficult in the sense, golf-wise. But what he's done, over the last three years, no one's ever done."
Federer told reporters afterward he was thrilled to be allowed inside the ropes to see his friend play.
"I had never really seen live golf from professionals up until the last year," he said. "It's different from sitting in a stadium watching soccer or a tennis match. You've got to know where to stand to see the ball. For me, it was hard to follow the ball. I lost it just because he hits it so hard and so far. . . . With us, they scream after every point. With him, it's not every shot."
He also indicated he can easily empathize with Woods's life outside the ropes.
"He's got media after the rounds, media after the practice rounds, fans following him during matches, practice rounds. It's the same thing for me," Federer said. "Autographs, photographs, everybody always wants something from you. You need tight security. It's almost easier when he's on the golf course."
Asked who had it worse from fans and paparazzi, Woods said: "I might have a slight . . . I don't know if you'd call it an advantage or disadvantage. I think it's just more of walking down the street. In this country, certainly. Globally, I don't know, but I know certainly in this country, I'm probably a little bit more recognized than he is."