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They partake in great chase

Woods, Federer are so dominant in their respective sports that they use each other's accomplishments as major motivation.

January 30, 2007|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Anything you can do, I can do better.

The old Irving Berlin lyric from the Broadway musical "Annie Get Your Gun" seems apt these days when discussing Tiger Woods and Roger Federer, friendly rivals who seem bent on pushing one another to new and greater heights, burnishing their outsized legacies while relentlessly pursuing history in their respective sports.

Woods, 31, reigns over golf.

Federer, 25, rules tennis.

"He'll text me and say he won over there," Woods told ESPN on Sunday night after winning his seventh consecutive PGA Tour event, hours after Federer finished ripping through the field without losing a set to win the Australian Open, his 10th major championship. "Now, I've got to text him and say we're all even."

Seemingly locked in step as they stake their claims as the greatest to play their sports, neither a flamboyant personality but each a stylish competitor, Woods and Federer are chasing records that once seemed unattainable.

Woods' seven-tournament PGA Tour winning streak is the longest in 62 years, since Byron Nelson won 11 in a row in 1945.

With four more Grand Slam titles, Federer would tie the record owned by Pete Sampras, who told ESPN last week that Federer surely will supplant him.

"I really believe in my heart that he's going to win way more than 14," Sampras said. "I think the way he's going, and the fact that he doesn't really have players really pushing him, I think he can win close to 17, 18 majors.

"He's going to slide by me and hit Nicklaus soon."

That would be Jack Nicklaus, whose record of 18 major golf championships has been doggedly pursued by Woods, who has won 12.

Of more immediate interest to Federer is the French Open, the only one of the four Grand Slam events the Swiss champion has not won. He came close last June, reaching the final in Paris and winning the first set before inexplicably slumping and losing to his clay-court nemesis, Rafael Nadal of Spain, who nevertheless told reporters afterward, "Federer is the best player in history."

If Federer can finally break through and win the French title this year -- "That will be a dream come true," he told reporters Sunday in Melbourne -- he would be heavily favored to become only the third man to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year and the first to do it since Rod Laver in 1969.

Federer has won the last four Wimbledon championships and three consecutive U.S. Open titles, the last with Woods watching as a guest from Federer's box.

Later in the year, Federer walked the course with Woods at a tournament in China.

Perhaps they compared notes on the dynamics of their dominance, how opponents seem to melt in their presence. Maybe Woods reminded Federer that he once won all four of golf's major championships in succession, though not all in the same year. Perhaps Woods shared the news that his wife, Elin, was expecting.

Though Woods might sit out the British Open this summer to be on hand for the birth of his first child, he will be favored to win the Masters in April and the other two majors, the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh and the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla.

In the meantime, he will continue to pursue Nelson's record at some point, though it's not certain when. He will play this week in a European Tour event at Dubai, United Arab Emirates, but has left open when he'll play his next PGA Tour event: either the Nissan Open at Riviera starting Feb. 15 or the Accenture Match Play at Tucson the following week, with the Tucson event expected to get the nod.

He seemed reticent Sunday in discussing the streak.

"You can't compare [it to] four in a row in majors," said Woods, comparing his so-called Tiger Slam of 2000-01 to his current run of titles.

Majors are what count.

Majors are what drive him.

Federer too.

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Trophy hunters

Tiger Woods' and Roger Federer's major titles (Federer has never won the French Open):

WOODS' MAJORS (12)

*--* MASTERS 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005 U.S. OPEN 2000, 2002 BRITISH OPEN 2000, 2005, 2006 PGA CHAMPIONSHIPS 1999, 2000, 2006

*--*

FEDERER'S MAJORS (10)

*--* AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2004, 2006, 2007 WIMBLEDON 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 U.S. OPEN 2004, 2005, 2006

*--*

Note: Jack Nicklaus holds golf's record with 18 major titles; Pete Sampras holds tennis' record with 14 Grand Slam titles.

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Source: Los Angeles Times

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