Monday, August 17, 2009

The Best a Man Can Get?

It's been a while since we've chatted with our friend Randy, so today we'll check in to talk a little golf, a little tennis, and engage in a little exercise in Blogometrics.

As always, feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Blogometrics: Alright, if you have time for a chat...

In light of Tiger's "collapse" this weekend at the PGA Championships - who more dominates their individual sport right now: Tiger Woods or Roger Federer?

Randy: Right now? Then I would say Tiger hands down!You can't possibly say Fed, could you?

B: I think you could make the case.

Y.E. Yang (as in: "Who?") beat Woods this weekend, marking the first time Tiger had ever lost while going in to the final round with a lead in a major. He was 12 for his previous 12. Now, to be fair, Tiger cannot be expected to win every major - but this is the first year since 2004 he has failed to win at least one. We've seen him lose to Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and a handful of other top-notch competitors - and now we've seen this. I am not implying in any way that Woods' run at the top of his game is over, but I think maybe his dominance has started to slip.

Looking at Federer - and assuming you have a healthy Nadal - he is one of 2 players in the world with any realistic shot at winning any tournament he enters (the other, of course, being Nadal). I know Andy Roddick gave it his all at this year's Wimbeldon, but it illustrated perfectly that a top ten ranked player, playing way above their level, still cannot beat Federer (unless their name is Nadal).

Now, as for Nadal, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from what has turned out to be a bit more of a knee issue than was originally thought. If you take away 1/10th of Nadal's mobility, I think that gives Federer another few years as the sport's pre-eminent talent (or until Andy Murray can get his emotions in check).

Not every athlete has a Smoltz-ian (or Wang-ian, or Big Papi-ian) collapse. Some fade slowly, even if most folks don't realize it until the dominance is almost gone. What we may be seeing here with Woods is that he's falling back to Earth ever so slightly, albeit just enough to fall within reach of that next tier below him.

R: Good points.

My whole issue with comparing golf to tennis is what it takes to win a tourney. In tennis, you have to beat 6-7 opponents to win a tourney. And the first 3 are usually outside the top 50. In golf, Tiger (for argument sake) has to beat EVERYONE. And I think even he was surprised at how well he played coming off the injury. While no majors in 2009, he leads the tour in wins...and they aren't the cheap ones (See Greater Hartford Open or whatever they call themselves with their 20 under par golf course).

Now I tip my hat to Yang for chipping in for Eagle, but bottom line is that Tiger had absurd pressure to win yesterday and Yang was free wheeling. It is obscene how we all just expected Tiger to win. Given the conditions and the chase to Jack's record, it's pretty unfair. And with all that said, if he makes any of those puts on the front 9, it is OVER.

But let me jump to Federer. A year ago at Wimbledon, people were saying he was "done". Not done as in no longer in the top 10, but done in terms of majors. Guess what, I think they were right. Nadal owns the French...can you say the best of all time on clay (cuz McEnroe did I believe). And once he went down, the path opened. Murray had the pressure of a country and Novak lost his game in 09, which leaves A-rod. So he beats one top 10 guy and he gets a major. Tiger has to beat the field with everyone gunning for him...and luck is so much more in play in golf.

I play both sports, and my fluctuation in golf is crazy from day-to-day. Just saying...

B: Those are all excellent points, but (of course) let me counter:

First, I'll argue that Tiger isn't directly competing against anyone - he's competing against the course, as is everyone else. If you want to bring direct competition into it, then it just makes Yang's chip in eagle look even more amazing - just as it reminds you that it used to be Tiger that made those shots...

As for the competition - and tournament formats - facing Federer, I agree, but in a way you're making the counter-point that, well, it is what it is. I think that Federer is at least as far ahead of his field (except on clay - but Tiger has seemingly lost the ability to play links-style courses) as Woods is.

Maybe instead of trying to point to who is more dominant, we can point to how both men are in the decline of their dominance?

R: I'm not ready to go there. It would not surprise me if Tiger wins 2-3 majors next year. Jack had a few years where he had no majors remember. Golf is just easier to win at post-30 years old.

Tennis is like being a RB in the NFL. You hit 30 or have a lot of miles, and it is a bad thing.
Back to Tiger, I think he has a hard time on Poana greens because they are brutal to read, and he is probably the best all-time at reading greens.

Can you tell that I like Tiger?

B: Indeed I can.

Would it surprise you if Tiger had another 0-fer? Would it surprise you if Federer won 2 or 3 of his own?

Here's another way to look at it: Assuming Nadal is slow to bounce back from his knee (which seems to be the case), and Federer holds off Murray and Roddick (strong on the hardcourt - plus the home crowd) and wins the US Open (as he has every year since 2004), he has won 3 majors this year, to Woods' zero.

I think if you go back to the original question "who more dominates their sport right now" - that's a pretty compelling case.

Look at it this way: If a major tournament began in both golf and in tennis tomorrow, and you had to bet on either Federer or Woods to win their tournament outright - who would you pick?

R: I like your final question. Tough one!

Personally I just have a hard time "forgetting" about that whole Nadal domination of the past year and a half. But with that said, and back to your question, I guess it would depend on which major. I really thought Roger would win Wimbledon once Nadal withdrew, but the Open is a different ball game. In golf, Tiger is almost always favored vs. the field (at least in the court of public opinion).

So if we take the next 2 majors, I would favor Tiger at the Masters over Federer at the Open. But it is close! In fact, maybe a push?

The other piece that I probably subconsciously think about is that tennis is on the decline, while golf is booming! For every Steve Stricker, Lucas Glover and Hunter Mahan, there is a...wait for it...Jo-Wildred Tsonga and Marty Fish? Seriously. Very weak!

B: The mighty Tsonga!! Ahhh...the potential wasted...Still, watching him thoroughly dismantle Marcos Baghdatis in the '08 Aussie semis was, no doubt, a frightening sight for any competitive player (or fan) on the planet. Too bad he hasn't ever been ever put it all together, because (and now I'm veering waaaay off into hypothetical land), he really had a chance to be an elite talent.

See, here's the thing about your point: It kind of makes mine. If I were going to ask you "Who dominates their sport more: Tiger Woods, or Tim Duncan playing against 6th graders?" - you'd have to say Tim Duncan. Federer can't control his competition...

R: Fair enough...I see where you are going. I guess the point that I was trying to make is that even against a historically weak pool of competitors, the drop-off of an elite tennis player (and arguably the best of all time...though I still vote for Laver) is still dramatic.

I just checked and Federer is 42-7 in 2009. While this may not be completely up-to-date, it's not dominant. And he has a losing record to Murray and Nadal, correct?

Still, I see your larger point. My thing is that watching Federer in 2009 is like watching Shaq now. Still dominant, but not "as dominant". I don't feel that drop-off with Tiger, but 2010 just got a whole lot more interesting!!!

B: Whoa whoa whoa...42-7 is NOT dominant? He wins 6 times more often than he loses. So, in other words, if there were 49 games on the, I don't know, hockey schedule, and a team went 42-7, they were NOT dominant? I don't know...but okay, let's look at Tiger...

He's entered 13 tournaments this year and won 5. That's a 5-8 record. Is that dominant?

R: Does he have 3 titles in 2009? Come on. And 2 of them you can throw out.

So if Tiger has won 5 titles and there are 100 people in each, does he get 500 wins?
Just saying that there have been more dominant years in the past for Federer, Sampras, Laver, etc.

If Federer wins the Open, I will switch sides. But I just can't pour dirt on Tiger just yet. By the way, which is worse---being up 2 shots in the final round or being up 5-1 in the 3rd? Ouch!

B: A) I'm not pouring dirt on Tiger, I'm simply making my case.

B) There are big differences between golf and tennis - but to answer your question, no. Tiger does not get 100 wins for each championship, he gets 1; but let's say it worked that way. If everyone, in every tournament, he finished ahead of was a 'win' - everyone ahead of him was a 'loss', do you think he'd have an .857 win percentage? That's Federer's stat for the year. This could probably (actually, definitely) be looked up, but I don't have time for your "facts."

C) Congrats to you, sir, on getting me to resort to A,B, and C arguments. I say congrats!!!

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