Dubai: When at the peak of their prowess during the first decade of the millennium, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer often formed an elite twosome — shooting for a men’s grooming giant or the former turning up to cheer the Swiss champion at the US Open. The connection between the two friends, in Federer’s own words in an interview last year, had become thin in this decade — but the two greatest champions of their trade still seem to have quite a bit in common.
The duo may be chalk and cheese in terms of personalities, but share the same champions’ ego to prove themselves at the highest level of the game. Otherwise, how would you explain a 42-year-old Woods wanting to savour the experience of an Olympics at least once in Tokyo next year or a 38-year-old Federer trying to preserve himself for a last hurrah at the Games under the Switzerland flag?
The weekend just gone by, hence, was a special one in sport as in less than 24 hours after Federer won his momentous 10th crown before the home crowd at Basel, Woods equalled US legend Sam Snead’s all-time record of 82 US PGA Tour triumphs set 54 years ago when the 15-time major winner won the Zozo Championship in Japan on Monday. Snead continued to play until he was 52 years of age — a feat which looks a long shot for the iconic golfer — but a rejuvenated Woods seems not ready to give up on his aspirations as yet.
“If you would have asked me a few years ago, I would have given you a different answer, but certainly the future looks brighter than it has.
The body can’t do what it used to but I can still think my way around the golf course,” said an upbeat Woods — capping a phenomenal year which saw him overtaking Arnold Palmer’s haul of 14 majors at the Augusta Masters. The all-time record of 18 majors, which rests with Jack Nicklaus, may look one too many — but not completely beyond reach of the former world No. 1.
Even the legion of Woods fans would not have — a few years back — given the fallen star a chance to come back to competitive golf, let alone adding a major to his illustrious CV. The memories of a distraught Woods being arrested for DUI in early 2017, not to speak of the battering his body took due to numerous surgeries on his back and knee, suddenly seems like a distant memory — although one has to see how long the journey endures.
Woods’ now-on-now-off campaign never ceases to surprise the fellow professionals — and it was not different after his current feat on Monday. Shane Lowry, the current British Open champion, sounded more like a fan boy than a man who won a major championship three months ago. “He’s my golfing idol and sporting idol,” said Lowry. “He’s the best that’s ever lived. It doesn’t surprise me whatever he does.”
It’s been an equally fascinating journey for Federer in this decade — who ended a five-year drought to add the 18th Grand Slam to his kitty and now has an all-time high 20 slams and 103 ATP titles after the Basel one on Sunday.
However, there is no ignoring the fact how dear each title means to Federer at the twilight of his career — it was evident as he could not hold the emotions on Sunday night. He and the team has now devised a blueprint to survive the rigours of the Tour — which saw him pulling out of Paris Masters on Monday to manage his workload ahead of the season-ending ATP Finals.
“I have to pace myself since I want to play as long as possible on the ATP Tour. I am sorry for my French fans who I will see next year at Roland Garros,” he added.