Schumacher is the best, not me, says Tiger

It was apt that Tiger Woods should begin his three-week tour of the British Isles yesterday at the place where he has made all his rivals feel so inferior. No, not on the golf course - at the bank.

The HSBC headquarters in London's Canary Wharf was a slightly surreal setting for the world's No 1 to be giving his press conference ahead of the World Match Play which begins tomorrow, but then when you are paying as much as the global financiers are for Woods' presence at Wentworth this week, you have every right to take a golfing Mohammed to his mountain of money.

And what Woods was saying turned out to be slightly surreal, anyway.

For the 30-year-old, who is on a five-tournament winning run and has never looked more masterful, does not concur with the majority of the universe that he is the greatest sportsperson in the world. Neither does he believe that the mantle belongs to his new best mate, Roger Federer.

"In my eyes, Michael Schumacher has to be," said Woods about the Formula One colossus who announced his retirement on the weekend. "His consistency does it for me. He's performed year in, year out, in a sport watched globally under immense pressure."

So, too, has Federer, the Swiss might argue, although perhaps not too vehemently with Woods, who sat at courtside in New York last Sunday. The pair met before and after the 25-year-old's US Open victory over Andy Roddick and Woods suspects that the kinship may be everlasting.

"It's nice to have a person you can talk to and relate to," he said. "The things he and I are dealing with are comparable. We are going to be friends for a long time."

Indeed, there was even a suggestion that Federer will join the golfing pilgrims at the K Club next week where Woods will attempt to prove his conversion to the Ryder Cup before moving on to the final leg of his transatlantic jaunt at the Amex Championship in Watford. The 12-time major winner does not admit much when it comes to his comparable failings in the biennial tear-up, but at least he was willing to concede that in the early days the intense social build-up was a headache.

"I'm not a real big function guy, so there are parts that were never fun for me," he said. "When I first played in '97 I remember Mark O'Meara telling me, 'get your sleep now because when you get there you won't sleep a lot'."

Not that Woods anticipates that being too much of a problem in Ireland. Tom Lehman's transformation of this lone beast into a leader of the herd is already the stuff of legend and is best emphasised by Woods taking out the four rookies in the American team for a meal three weeks ago - at a tournament, on a school night.

Why did he commit such a sin? The answer was obvious in his glowing praise for his captain. "Tom's been just great," he said. "Over the last year we have had numerous discussions not just about golf, but about life. That's been the neat thing about it."

Ian Woosnam and Thomas Bjorn did not spring instantly to mind.

* Darren Clarke, who received one of Woosnam's wild cards for the Ryder Cup, and Bjorn, who publicly criticised Woosnam for not getting one, will be playing partners in the Madrid Masters, which starts tomorrow.

'Most unsporting driver in history of Formula One'

Tiger Woods may have spoken about Michael Schumacher in glowing terms, but reigning drivers' champion Fernando Alonso did anything but when attacking the soon-to-retire German. Alonso said: "Michael is the man with the most sanctions and is the most unsporting driver in the history of Formula One.

"Even [Zinedine] Zidane retired with more glory than Schumacher," he added, referring to the French footballer sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final defeat against Italy.

The Spaniard tempered his comments about Schumacher, saying: "That doesn't mean he hasn't been the best driver, and fighting against him has been an honour and a pleasure."

Three kings: Career records

TIGER WOODS

Age 30

Birthplace Cypress, California, US

12 majors:

The Open Championship 2000, 2005, 2006

The Masters 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005

US Open 2000, 2002

PGA Championship 1999, 2000, 2006

ROGER FEDERER

Age 25

Birthplace Basle, Switzerland

Nine Grand Slams:

Wimbledon 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006

US Open 2004, 2005, 2006

Australian Open 2004, 2006

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Age 37

Birthplace Hürth, Germany

Seven Formula One World Championships:

1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004

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