Tiger Woods has clinched yet another major title, his 14th I think. The US Open 2008. Now he’s only 4 away from the all-time majors record of 18 set by Jack Nicklaus. The great Jack Nicklaus. No other player in Golfing history has come even close to what these two have achieved. Truly the game’s greats! But the greatest? Is it Woods or Nicklaus? This question has been baffling golf fans all over the globe. I think Nicklaus is the greatest right now! And I think Woods is on his way to greatness. And rest assured, by the time he hangs up his boots, he would have reached where no other golfer in history has ever reached. He’s just 32.
A similar story is being scripted in another sport – Tennis. Roger! Roger! Roger!!! Yes, Roger Federer is close to reaching tennis immortality. 12 grand slam titles – and 2 shy off the record set by Pete Sampras. But like Sampras, Federer too has not won the French Open. Sampras never made it past the semis though. Federer has lost the final 3 times in a row to clay court nemesis Nadal. Does not take any luster of Federer’s achievements and domination of the men’s tennis circuit. Maybe just a little for the purists. He is and has been the world number 1 for the last five years, which is also the record for the most consecutive weeks as number 1. At 27, he has the second highest career earnings in history. For some, he already is the greatest ever! For some, he is one of the greats. And for some more, he is on the way! But you know what? Let’s visit this space again in, say, 3 yrs, when he is 30 (usually the crossroads for all tennis players) and take up this argument. I think there will be no argument.
What’s common between these two gentlemen – Mr. Woods and Mr. Federer? Couple of points come to mind right away – masters of their sport, rich, innovative, great suits and watches, the Gillette ad etc. But all this is superficial. I think it’s the kind of human beings they are. Both of them have never been caught on the wrong foot or with their pants down. Both have exemplary behavior in public (on and off the court), superb sportsmanship, do not succumb to pressure, lead by example, support many noble and humanitarian causes, have revolutionized their sport, are honest and even modest. Millions of people all over the world look up to these guys. And, boy, have they obliged or what!
These two are great sportsmen but even greater human beings. They don’t make too many of ’em anymore!