Woods vs Federer, and the Fear Effect in Business & Sports

Interesting that Nike has launched a  new ad with Tiger Woods narrating a Roger Federer bio. In addition to being friends (and hence the inside joke in Tiger’s crack at the end of the commercial), one of the things that Woods and Federer share is the fear they induce in otherwise near-equivalent competitors.

But Tiger, while unarguably an incredible golfer, is less fear-inducing among competitors than he used to be, not least because of his recent fades in the U.S. Open and Master’s. To keep people fearful you have to fairly regularly do fear-inducing things.

More on Tiger’s eroding fear factor here, but the general subject of fear in a competitive context is an interesting one. Many times, whether in business or in sports, people cede the field before walking onto it.

For those of you with a scholarly bent, some more reading here.


  1. “Otherwise near-equivalent” competitors?
    Like who?
    It’s like saying that Paul Kedrosky is an otherwise near-equivalent investor to Warren Buffet or Jim Simons…

  2. Personally, I think that fear comes from being unprepared or weak. In golf it is a lot easier to get rid of that fear if you know you are at the top of your game and have been practicing and playing at a high level even if you are staring down Tiger Woods. In tennis it can be different because you can be at the top of your game and still not be able to return a Roger Federer serve. As soon as has blown his first serve by you, that is when you are in trouble and you become weak. Business is more like Golf. If you have properly prepared yourself, you can still win even if you are inexperienced.

  3. Isn’t Rafael Nadal the player to beat nowadays?

  4. Tomas got to the point before I did.
    If you watched Roger in Roland Garros you would know that he is not just the person INDUCING fear but the person getting some too – from Rafa. The finals at Wimbledon today are him and Rafa again, and this time Rafa has turned around several 5-set matches, played on consecutive days, to his advantage, so it must be Roger whose turn it is to be afraid, no?

  5. What gets lost in the recent buzz about Nadal, great as he is as 21, is that he doesn’t have separation from the rest of the field as Federer does. Fed is damn near a LOCK to get to the finals of any Grand Slam event regardless of surface — he’s done it for an unprecedented nine consecutive Grand Slam finals — while Nadal is only a sure thing at Roland Garros. The past two years at Wimbledon, Nadal has fought for his life to escape near-losses in early round matches. While he no doubt gives Federer a very tough challenge, Nadal’s biggest challenge is MAKING the finals to meet Roger. Fed is still well ahead in the points rankings and is the clear #1. Only among the largely tennis-ignorant U.S. sports media or people who do not follow tennis is Nadal considered the man to beat. Even Nadal acknowledges that fact. Time is on Rafael’s side, but we’ve NEVER seen this kind of domination in men’s tennis before, save McEnroe’s great season of 1984 when he won three Slams and lost only four matches all year. Federer has basically equalled that performance in EACH of the past three seasons, and could win a third Slam this year for the third time in the past four years. Even Tiger fans can’t claim that kind of remarkably dominant run for their guy.