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Sports | Woods and Federer march toward "best ever" status in golf and tennis

Issue: "Barrier riffs," Feb. 10, 2007

¿Quién es más macho? It's a question the old Saturday Night Live skit might ask. Who is more dominant in their sport? Golfer Tiger Woods or tennis pro Roger Federer? The question bears no easy answer. That difficulty speaks as a testimony to the level of play of both stars that are dominating their individual sports in ways few athletes ever have.

Certainly Woods is better known than the Swiss tennis star. The 31-year-old golfer marched quietly toward one of the seemingly most untouchable records in sports when he won his seventh straight PGA tour event Jan. 28 in San Diego-the most since the late Byron Nelson won 11 in a row in the 1940s. Perhaps most remarkable about Woods is his ability to make winning seem routine. Woods has won the most tournaments in eight of his 11 professional seasons. With wins in 12 majors, Woods stands just six major championship victories from tying Jack Nicklaus for the all-time record.

Or is it the 25-year-old tennis star Roger Federer, who recently picked up his 10th grand slam victory with a win in the Australian Open? How dominant has Federer become? He didn't even drop a set in the Australian Open, which concluded on Jan. 27. With the victory in Australia, Federer notched his 36th straight victory in matchplay and his sixth grand slam title in the past seven. Like Woods, Federer seems poised to close in on a great record-Pete Sampras' mark of 14 grand slam titles. Federer has 10.

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Without peers in their own sports, it seems only natural to compare the two titans to see which resides atop the individual sports world. And it's not like the golf and tennis stars aren't taking notice of each other. Last year, Woods traveled to New York to watch Federer win the U.S. Open from the tennis star's box. Later that year, Federer hung out with Woods at a golf tournament in China.

How do the athletes rate each other in comparison? "The only thing going for me, is I've got longevity in my corner," said Woods, noting golfers can compete at high levels long after the normal tennis player's skills deteriorate in his late 20s.

Around the Horn

HORSE RACING: The long battle against broken bones and infection ended for racehorse Barbaro on Jan. 29. Despite expensive efforts to fix a broken leg suffered in May's Preakness Stakes, Barbaro's owners had the bay colt euthanized when recovery finally seemed out of the question. In the months following his injury, Barbaro became a touchstone for compassion, inspiring huge numbers of well-wishers to send cards and flowers.

SKIING: An embarrassing 2006 Winter Olympics wasn't the end of U.S. skier Bode Miller's problems. It's been a year since the outspoken and often controversial Miller notched any points in a slalom event-a fact that irritates U.S. ski team coach Phil McNicol. He notes that Miller is consistently the team's fastest slalom skier in practice. "The situation is very frustrating for Bode, but also for us," McNicol told the AFP. "I have to admit I'm mystified by what happens during the races." But it seems simple enough: Miller keeps crashing.

NBA: Looks like Shaquille O'Neal's status as a Miami Beach reserve police officer isn't a joke after all. When a teen driver crashed into Shaq's parked Cadillac Escalade and then drove away, the Miami Heat star and a bodyguard followed in the damaged SUV for five minutes until the teen pulled over at a gas station. O'Neal then summoned police, who charged the teen driver with leaving the scene of an accident.

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