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Rodriguez part of golden trifecta

A-Rod, Woods, Federer

A-Rod, Woods, Federer
09/11/2007 2:35 PM ET
A-Rod, Woods, Federer in prime, dominating respective sports

When you look at what Tiger Woods is accomplishing in the world of professional golf, how do you compare him with his fellow competitors of today?

And what about Roger Federer in the sport of tennis as related to his place in the game?

And then there is Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees, who has hit home runs in a fashion this year that leaves his teammates looking on in amazement.

The fact is, these three great athletes stand far above their fellow competitors when you examine their respective sports.

There is so much activity in the world of sports today that we may have overlooked what could be called a golden age for three great athletes.

The historic accomplishments of Woods, Federer and Rodriguez came into focus on Sunday when all three men once again found their way into the headlines.

Woods fired a final round of 63 to win the BMW Championship for his 60th victory on the PGA Tour. That put him to within two wins of Arnold Palmer and four behind Ben Hogan. Sam Snead is the career leader in PGA wins with 82, and Jack Nicklaus has 73.

In winning the U.S. Open on Sunday, Federer posted his 12th Grand Slam tournament championship and passed Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver on the all-time list.

Federer now is tied for second on the Grand Slam list with Roy Emerson, just two titles behind Pete Sampras.

Rodriguez hit his 52nd home run of the season on Sunday as the Yankees defeated Kansas City, 6-3. It marked the fifth consecutive game in which A-Rod had hit a home run.

Only Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and now Rodriguez have hit 50 or more home runs in the rich history of the Yankees.

Rodriguez now has hit 516 career home runs, just five away from Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Willie McCovey.

When one stops to think about Tiger getting ready to pass Palmer; Federer within striking distance of Sampras as the all-time Grand Slam leader; and Rodriguez in a position to overtake Williams and McCovey, it is easy to see that we are talking about historic accomplishments in the world of sports.

We also are talking about three athletes in the prime of their careers, A-Rod the oldest of the trio at 32 with Tiger reaching that age in December and Federer the youngster of the group at 26.

We also are talking about three great athletes who have set solid examples of how to handle fame and fortune.

All three recognize their place in history but seem to handle the high altitude with modesty.

"I never, ever would have dreamed that this could have happened this soon," said Tiger of his 60th PGA victory and fifth-place standing on the all-time list.

"I think about it a lot now, honestly," admitted Federer of being within two wins of tying Sampras on the all-time Grand Slam list.

Asked about the home run totals he has posted, Rodriguez responded: "I peek up [at the scoreboard], smile and enjoy it a bit, but I have to keep moving."

We should all be thinking about and enjoying the success of these three great athletes.

I suppose one can make a claim that the three haven't always been model athletes at all times, but they have handled themselves and the spotlight with more than passing grades.

The day will come when Woods will be right there with Snead, Nicklaus, Hogan and Palmer in every comparison; when Federer likely will be alone at the top of the tennis world; and when Rodriguez will be spoken of in terms of Ruth and Mantle.

If you care at all about sports, you are fortunate to be a witness to history, and three young men are deserving of your applause.

Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book (Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue) was published by SportsPublishingLLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.