Was Sunday’s Wimbledon final bigger than the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines?

Was Sunday’s Wimbledon final bigger than the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines?

In elementary school science class, we learned about a simple classification system used to group living things, and if I remember correctly, a favorite mnemonic device our teachers used was “King Philip came from Germany by sailing.”

If we were to divide sports into classifications, golf and tennis would certainly share the same division. So naturally it was inevitable that soon after Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal finished their epic battle at Wimbledon late Sunday night London time, the comparisons and debate between the historic tennis match at the All England Club and the historic US Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines would begin.

For five days and ninety-one holes, Rocco Mediate matched the incomparable Tiger Woods stroke for stroke. Over the course of five sets lasting four hours and forty-eight minutes, the 22-year-old Nadal traded great groundstrokes with the 26-year-old Federer. Both events were equally fascinating and historic in their own right, but broken down into smaller classifications, the people involved in Wimbledon give tennis a significant edge over golf.

The glaring difference between Woods and Jack Nichols has always been, and most likely always will be, the lack of a true rival, an energetic challenger to his throne who will push him to the limits of his abilities and legitimize his greatness. Federer found that in Nadal, but it could also be argued that the young Spaniard found that in the experienced Swiss champion.

Let’s take Mediate out of the equation for a second and plug in Phil Mickelson at the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines. Surely Mickelson’s presence would have created more buzz in San Diego and left us with an even more memorable event for the ages. Golf certainly has a harder time getting No. 1 vs. No. 2 than tennis and even the BCS, but in the Tiger Woods era, that has happened much less often than in the eras of Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.

Some have called Woods’ victory at Torrey Pines the greatest performance in golf history. There are already cries that Nadal-Federer is the greatest match in tennis history. However, even the one-off Woods-Mickelson showdown at the US Open doesn’t top the story of two of tennis’ greatest talents.

For the comparison to be fair, Woods and Mickelson should have played in the last pair on Sunday at the last three Masters and the US Open. It’s only fair; Federer and Nadal have combined for six championship matches at the French Open and Wimbledon over the past three years.

Even if Federer, who is three Grand Slam titles short of eclipsing Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors, is Woods, Nadal is far better than Mickelson. If Woods and Mickelson are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, then Federer and Nadal are 1A and 1B, and now that order is in question. The duo dominated in unprecedented fashion; Federer has topped the rankings for a record 231 consecutive weeks and Nadal is a solid second with a record 154.

With Woods on the sidelines, Mickelson could still be without a major this season. And the winner of this year’s Riviera Country Club and Colonial event, who trails Woods by just over $1.8 million on the money list, may not even overtake Tiger in earnings for 2008. Certainly if Nadal or Federer leave tennis scene in one year, the other will quickly rise to the top.

While Federer vs. Nadal is tennis’ version of Yankees-Red Sox, Duke vs. UNC, or even Magic vs. Bird, Woods vs. Mickelson is like every team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in the mid-1990s vs. the Buffalo Bills; a technical matchup pitting No. 1 against No. 2, but with virtually a foregone conclusion.

I’m not naive enough to think that golf can consistently give us two of the best players in the world in close competition for the entire stretch of even half of a major season, but it would be nice to see it every now and then.

Maybe it’s just that the Tiger is too dominant and an equal simply cannot exist. But isn’t that what they said about Federer just a few years ago? Shouldn’t Nadal just win on clay and make his mark as a one-surface specialist? Well, it turns out that the 22-year-old Nadal is just as mentally fit as Woods and Federer. Sorry Lefty, but this lefty gave tennis something that our current era of golf will never be able to appreciate – true rivalry.

Woods’ gut-wrenching performance at Torrey Pines will surely go down as one of the greatest individual efforts of all time, but his journeyman dance partner just doesn’t have what it takes to win the argument. As we saw on Sunday at Wimbledon, it takes two to tango for a truly epic battle.

#Sundays #Wimbledon #final #bigger #Open #Torrey #Pines

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