The sporting world was mesmerized by Tiger Woods' riveting flop wedge Sunday on the 16th hole at the Memorial Tournament. When no less than Jack Nicklaus says, "I don't think under the circumstances I've ever seen a better shot," who are mere mortals to argue? The miracle that Woods pulled out of his bag greased the way to his fifth victory at the Memorial and tied him with the venerable Nicklaus for second place on the all-time list of PGA Tour victories with 73.
As daunting as that achievement is, golf fans tend to focus on Woods' pursuit of Nicklaus' record of 18 major championships. Woods has 14, though with four Masters, four PGAs, three U.S. Opens and three British Opens, he has been an equal-opportunity plunderer of opponents. On the other hand, some athletes specialize in dominating a particular event.
Likable and photogenic Rafael Nadal has flashed into the quarterfinals of this year's French Open, and to say he dominates that tournament is to say Mila Kunis is sort of attractive. Nadal has won 11 majors, but six – more than half – have come on the red clay at Roland Garros. He has won the French every year since 2005 except in 2009, and this spring has looked much the same. He has blown past his first four opponents without losing a set – in fact, without even going to a tiebreak. His record in Paris is an otherworldly 49-1.
So how does Nadal's ownership of Roland Garros compare across the landscape of individual sports? Even if he wins his seventh French Open, he's merely equaled Chris Evert's mark for most singles titles at the French, and that still would leave him two short of Martina Navratilova's nine at Wimbledon. In each of tennis' four Grand Slam events, a woman owns the most singles titles won.
While Nadal continues his chase in Paris, I'll Have Another will make his run outside New York in his quest to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner in history. Let's remind ourselves that Eddie Arcaro rode five Kentucky Derby winners, and won six times each at the Preakness and Belmont, and to-date, is still the only jockey to ride two Triple Crown winners.
As for other forms of racing, seven was lucky for Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France and for Richard Petty at the Daytona 500. In fact, Armstrong won seven in a row from 1999 through 2005. Petty's were spread over 18 years from 1964 through 1981. Armstrong has been accused of relying on illegal substances. Petty … well, he did smoke cigarettes.
So is Nadal on his way to membership among the most dominant individuals in single events? By next weekend, we should have a good idea.
10. Eddie Arcaro, Kentucky Derby (five victories)
9. Walter Hagen, PGA Championship (five victories)
8. Serena Williams, Australian Open (five victories)
7. Harry Vardon, British Open (six victories)
6. Chris Evert, U.S. Open (six victories)
5. Jack Nicklaus, Masters (six victories)
4. Chris Evert, French Open (seven victories)
3. Richard Petty, Daytona 500 (seven victories)
2. Lance Armstrong, Tour de France (seven victories)
1. Martina Navratilova, Wimbledon (nine victories)