You can't compare
Do you want to compare their numbers and trophies? Pointless. Futile. It's like trying to find the starting point of a circle or the strengths of the Washington Nationals.* Federer has won 15 Grand Slam championships; that makes him the most successful men's player ever. Woods has won 14 grand slam championships; that puts him on
Federer has reached 21 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals -- mind-numbing -- no one else has reached more than 10 in a row. Woods has been PGA Tour Player of the Year nine times already and he's on pace to do it again -- no one else has done it even seven. Federer is a preposterous 96-9 at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open -- that's 91.4 percent. Think about that. Federer is more likely to win a Wimbledon or U.S. Open match than any NBA player ever has been to make a free throw. But that's nothing: Since 2003, he is 86-2 (97.7 percent).
Tiger Woods has had the lead going into the final day of a major 14 times, and he has won all 14 times. That would be 100 percent. Or this: Tiger Woods has been in 19 playoffs on the PGA Tour and in Europe -- he is 18-1. He has not lost a playoff since 1998.
Yes, you can see it: Futile. At this point, most people tend to make the argument between Federer and Woods about their sports. Which sports is harder to dominate -- golf or tennis?
But that's a hard one to get at too. On the one hand, golf seems like it would be harder to dominate because there is only so much within a player's control. You can't play defense. You can't hit winners. You can't wear down your opponent with a flurry of body shots. For Woods to dominate he has to go out there with 100-plus of the world's best golfers and beat every one of them. He has to score lower than the hottest putters, the straightest drivers, the players who luckily chip in. And there's nothing he can do to stop them other than to be Tiger Woods (which, admittedly, does seem to go a long way). He has won 29 percent of the golf tournaments he has entered and nobody else is even close.
On the other hand, you can't have a bad day in tennis. At the British Open next week, Tiger can have a rough day or two and still win the thing. But one bad day for Federer, and he's eliminated. This is why his 21 consecutive semifinals are such a remarkable achievement ... do you want to see the most amazing statistic you will see all day (assuming you care about tennis)? Here you go:
No, you probably won't get anywhere on the tennis versus golf track either. Tennis is more physically grinding. Golf is more mentally grueling. In tennis, you have to face any number of styles. In golf, no two courses are alike. In tennis, you are alone out there, on your own, no caddy to tell you how far away the flag stands or what way the putt might break. In golf, your opponent is the golf course, and it never wilts, never chokes, rarely lets you come back from Love-40. At the end of the day, golfers will make their strong argument for golf, tennis player for tennis, and we're back on the treadmill.
Personally, I think the Roger Federer versus Tiger Woods argument is more of a cosmic one -- like the
And you can guess, no doubt, that in this scenario, Woods is Sinatra and Federer is Mathis. Woods wears blood red on Sundays and Federer wears sweaters around his neck. Federer expects to win; Woods insists on winning. Woods, like Sinatra, is for whatever gets you through the night. Federer, like Mathis, plays tender music -- I suspect Federer plays such beautiful tennis that it's probably good to make out to ... though I'll admit I've never tried it.
You could see all that at work on Sunday. Woods was on the 13th hole at the AT&T National at Congressional when he got word that
Federer, meanwhile, had that remarkable 77-game struggle with
So, in the end, I suspect that choosing between Woods and Federer really does come down to choosing between Sinatra and Mathis, between a killer and an artist, between a steely 12-foot putt to save par and a drop shot that hits the ground and doesn't bounce up. It's all how you view the world. But it does make you wonder: When Federer and Woods hang out on the yacht, do they play some chess or Monopoly or Battleship or foosball or Paper Scissors Stones or something like that? And if they do: Who wins?*