As if it is not hard enough for his rivals already, Tiger Woods now has Roger Federer helping him become an even better golfer.
Before taking a four-stroke lead into the final round of the CA World Championship in Miami today, Woods went to see the Swiss star win his latest match at nearby Key Biscayne.
Their friendship started last September and Woods claims there is more for him to learn from Federer than there is from another of his great buddies, basketball legend Michael Jordan.
“I think we can understand each other for what we go through,” said golf’s world number one of the tennis world number one.
“The difference between myself and Jordan and myself and Roger is that Roger and I play individual sports, so there’s common ground there that I didn’t have with Jordan.
“It’s still phenomenal to watch. It’s neat and intriguing for me to talk to him and see what he thinks on certain situations, and we pick each other’s brain a little bit.”
Woods also hailed Federer’s application behind the scenes, and sees that as another common factor.
He continued: “I think it’s just the dedication it takes. People don’t realise how hard you have to work off the court and off the course to achieve the levels that we’ve been able to achieve – it’s a lot harder than people think.
“Once he’s on the court we have the same competitive fire. He’s a lot more mellow than I am leading into the event. I’m pretty fired up and ready to go. I can’t wait to get out there and mix it up with the guys. He’s just a little more low-key.
“I remember at the (tennis) US Open that, I think it was 15 minutes or something like that before he goes on the court, and he has not had his ankles taped yet. He’s just talking to me.
“I’m like ’hey, go’. I pushed him out the door and just said ’go’. But once he gets on the court, though, it’s a totally different deal.”
Even with a one-stroke last-day lead nobody would be expecting anything other than a Woods victory at Doral, but with a four-shot advantage a 14th World Golf Championships win in 25 starts appeared almost a formality today.
Especially considering the two players closest to him after 54 holes.
Brett Wetterich, lying second on seven under par, was a Ryder Cup teammate six months ago, but the December before that he was at the US Tour qualifying school and he has won only once in over 100 starts on the circuit.
Australian Nick O’Hern, alone in third at six under, has beaten Woods twice in the Accenture World Match Play – the second time was only last month – but he is the European Tour’s nearly man with eight second places and not a single victory in over 150 tournaments. He has not won in America either.
Leading European in a tie for fourth is Dane Thomas Bjorn and, although he beat Woods to the Dubai Desert Classic six years ago, he was not giving him a six-shot start then.
Paul Casey, after his joint best score of the week, 66, resumed on four under with first-round co-leader Henrik Stenson, his fellow Swede Niclas Fasth and Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard was questioned after his Saturday round about spitting into one of the holes after he had three-putted.
“I just missed the putt and I wasn’t too happy,” he told a television reporter. “Don’t worry, it did go in the middle and wasn’t going to affect anyone else. If it did, I would have wiped it off.”
Newspaper journalists tried to follow up, but Garcia responded: “I just said it. I’m not going to repeat it.”