July 12, 2011
It’s British Open week, which means you’ll need a 4 a.m. wake-up call if you don’t want to miss any of the action. In most of the world, this is the biggest tournament of the year. It is probably even truer this year with European players holding the top four spots in the world rankings and all the major championships. This tournament is historically the most wide-open of the majors so you never know who will win, but here are a few things to keep in mind.
No, not Tiger. Rory McIlroy will tee it up for the first time since his dominating performance at the U.S. Open last month. His Tiger-esque victory at Congressional has the golf world crowning him as the next Tiger Woods. If not for an awful Sunday at Augusta, he could be halfway to a Rory-Slam.
Speaking of Tiger, we don’t know when Woods will return. We know it won’t be this week. He announced on his website that he will not play, but made no mention of when he expected to return. He hasn’t played in months so even if his body has healed, his game may not be ready by next month’s PGA Championship.
Several other names you may recognize will not be in the field this week. Frenchman, Thomas Levet earned himself a spot in the Open Championship by winning the French Open. He was injured when he jumped into a lake to celebrate his win and will not play. Vijay Singh and David Toms have also had to withdraw because of injuries. Colin Montgomery failed to qualify for the first time since 1989.
Royal St Georges is not easy. Open Championship winners have finished under par at Royal St Georges just three times. It will play as a par 70 at over 7200 yards from the back tees, a bit longer than 2003 when Ben Curtis won with a total score of 283. Then again, 10 years earlier, Greg Norman won with four rounds in the 60s. Many players have ranked it at the bottom of the courses in the British Open rotation. As always, the weather will factor mightily into how the course plays.
If not Rory, then who
McIlroy is the favorite, but who else could be holding the Claret Jug on Sunday? Phil Mickelson is always one to watch despite his poor record in the British Open. He has just one career top 10 finish. Luke Donald is the No. 1 ranked player in the world and looking for his first major championship win. Lee Westwood has five top-three finishes in the last seven majors. Is this his time? Jason Day finished second at the Masters and the U.S. Open. He’d like to improve by one spot this week.
Once in a while someone comes from out of nowhere to win this championship, so what about Sergio Garcia? Here’s a guy who has been out of the spotlight for a while and has been playing well.
June 13, 2011
Tiger Woods put the sports world on notice with his record-breaking Masters performance in 1997. Since then, the now 35-year old Woods has won a total of 14 majors and is threatening Jack Nicklaus’ all-time total of 18. Despite his recent struggles, he should have a good chance of getting there, simply because he still has put together solid efforts in the aforementioned Masters.
Beginning in 2000, when Woods won three of golf’s four major championships, he was sports’ most dominant athlete. The popular question became ‘Tiger or the field.’ And while the field came out on top more often, Tiger’s ten titles from 2000 – 2006 was one of golf’s greatest strings of brilliance and proved that it wasn’t such a silly question. But Woods has since fallen in the golf rankings and hasn’t won one of those coveted majors since the 2007 PGA Championship nearly four years ago. Because of that, a new athlete has taken over as the most dominant athlete on the planet:
With victories in the 2010 French Open, U.S. Open, and Wimbledon tournament, and the 2011 French a few weeks ago, Nadal is clearly the class of all of tennis. He’s now won four of the past five major championships and at the age of 25, is clearly in his prime.
The knock on Nadal in the past has been that while he is an amazing player on a clay court, he couldn’t match Roger Federer on grass. But winning two of the past three Wimbledon’s has squelched that notion and while Nadal isn’t quite as dominant there as he is on clay, it’s quite clear that he is top tennis player regardless.
The thing about Rafa is that he’s not only the most dominant player in sports today, but he could wind up as the greatest tennis player of all-time. I’m not quite ready to give him that crown just yet, but with ten Grand Slam championships already, Nadal has a good chance of surpassing Federer’s all-time record of 16. As the years go by, like all great athletes, there will be a decline in his game. But Nadal is so good on the clay court (since 2005, he’s won the French Open every year except 2009), that he could win that championship for several more years.
Part of the reason he’s sports’ most dominant athlete is there just aren’t a bevy of great ones around ruling their respective games right now. Think of baseball – is any one player all that dominant? Albert Pujols may come the closest and he’s hardly as overachieving the way Nadal is. Football? I don’t know, Peyton Manning? Even in a one-on-one sport such as basketball, it’s hard to say that Kobe Bryant or Lebron James is as dominant as Rafael Nadal is. Bryant may have approached that level winning the past two NBA titles, but even on a good Lakers team, he couldn’t guide them out of the second round of the playoffs this season.
Note that most dominant is a different thing entirely from ‘best.’ Though Nadal dominates his sport like no other athlete, he may not be the top athlete. When comparing sports, it’s obviously extremely difficult to label a current No. 1 and to name one the clear best is virtually impossible to do. Nadal may be up there, but it’s not realistic to compare him to someone like Lebron James.
Still, it’s time to start recognizing Nadal as not only the world’s most dominant tennis player, but its most dominant athlete in all of sports.