From Brian Keogh in Miami
Tiger Woods doesn't often play second fiddle but even the maestro bowed to a man he considers to be "the most dominant athlete on the planet" when he took on Doral's Blue Monster in his final practice round for today's $8 million WGC - CA Championship in Miami.
While Roger Federer was called inside the ropes by Woods yesterday, golf's dominant force hopes to repay the favour and catch the Swiss on Saturday night, when he hits his opening shot in the Sony Ericsson Open just 15 miles down the road at Key Biscayne
Each player is seeking to win in Miami for the third year in a row but the parallels between the two are becoming scarier by the day as both men arrived in south Florida in something of a slump by their own sky-high standards
Federer is coming off a third round defeat to Guillermo Canas in Indian Wells that ended his 41-match winning streak while Woods tied for 22nd last week at Bay Hill, ending his run of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes worldwide.
What galled Woods most about his closing 76 was not just his career worst back nine of 43 and that bogey-double-triple finish but the number of poor club and shot selection choices he made during the other 69 holes. Mistakes he said, he doesn't normally make.
Yet the world's number one golfer insisted that he is ready to challenge for his 13th individual WGC title on a big hitters course against a 73-man field that features Ireland's Pádraig Harrington and 49 of the world's top 50.
"I've definitely fixed it. But it was frustrating," said Woods of the causes of his Bay Hill meltdown. "I made some uncharacteristic mistakes with my club selection. If you analayse it objectively, I had three bad holes in a row at the very end.
"But the other 69 holes I made some mistakes along the way that I need to rectify. I probably should have been right next to the lead or leading if I had not made those silly mistakes.
"I am working on a few things in my swing, as well as my putting and just trying to solidify all that come Augusta. That's the point. You don't want to peak too soon. You want to peak on Thursday of Augusta."
Federer's presence during his practice round was a pleasant distraction for Woods and the pair have struck up a friendly rivalry over the past year with the Swiss sending Woods a teasing text message after his 10th Grand Slam victory in Australian Open: "12 to 10" it read
After having Federer come out and watch him practice yesterday, Woods plans to return the favour over the weekend to watch the man he believes will go on to become even more dominant on the tennis court than Michael Schumacher was on the Grand Prix circuit.
Woods said: "It's great to have him out here. I think he's a pretty wonderful supporter of golf and I think it's pretty neat when you have probably the most dominant athlete on the planet out there in your gallery."
Woods took Federer under the ropes - a policy frowned upon by the PGA Tour - but said he doesn't mind if he gets fined for doing it.
"I don't mind paying because he was starting to get hassled pretty good and that's not why he came out here," Woods joked. "He came out to enjoy himself a watch me slap it around a little bit."
Harrington is coming into the event after a two-week break and while he does not want to peak to early before the Masters, he would love to contend for the title on a course where his best finish is a share of 26th place in the Ford Championship last year.
"It is playing tougher, the rough is heavier and it is definitely a good solid test," said Harrington, who goes ut last with Phil Mickelson and Hideto Tanihara. "The lads are saying that the greens are firm but I found them soft because of the rain they had.
"It will be a tough week. With the Masters coming up, most people would try to get through Thursday here and judge where they are at. If they don't play well their mindset will change and they will all start thinking of Augusta.
"But if you do play well this week is big enough to hold your attention. I'd be happy to be in contention because it is certainly a very big event."
While Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson will be regarded as the main threats to Woods, many European hopes will be pinned on the recently crowned WGC Accenture Match Play champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
All 18 greens on the course have been completely relaid but England's Paul Casey, who is struggling shake off a heavy cold, admits that the grainy greens are the least of his worries.
"Bermuda rough to me is still baffling," he said. "I have no idea how to play out of it. So if I can keep it out of the rough, I'll be alright."