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The Masters won’t be the same without Tiger

A GRIP ON SPORTS

One of the rites of Spring, with a capital "S," is watching the Masters on television. It's coming up in about 10 days, but it won't be the same. Not with Tiger Woods sidelined. Read on.

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• Years ago, when Tiger was just beginning to make his mark on professional golf, someone asked Jack Nicklaus if this was the guy who was going to break his record of 18 professional major wins. Nicklaus answered in the affirmative, but had a qualifier. If he stays healthy, the greatest golfer of all time said. Nicklaus, who also mentioned such a pursuit would also take the support of people around Tiger, was prescient. Tiger raced to 14 major wins younger than anyone could have imagined, though maybe the all-knowing Nicklaus saw it coming. Then he ran into a roadblock. A couple of roadblocks. One was outside his house six years ago when he had his well-publicized – and dissected – run-in with his ex-wife. The fall from grace due to his off-course foibles seemed to dissipate Tiger's laser-like focus of his early years. But more problematic were the little injuries. A knee that he battled through to win the 2008 U.S. Open, his last major win. An Achilles. A wrist. And now, most alarming, a bad back that has brought him to his knees. It's bad enough to require surgery and cause him to miss the Masters for the first time since he was a teenager. Tiger is no longer a teenager. He is 38 and may not play in another major until he turns 39 in December. But he's an old 38. Think about this. Nicklaus had one surgery during all the years he was piling up his 18 major wins, a minor knee procedure that caused him to miss less than three weeks. Tiger seems to be having medical procedures as often as he has tournament wins. Which, if he's healthy, he still does more than anyone else. It's just that he hasn't come through in majors in the past six years and his body is breaking down. That's all. A few years back, when Tiger missed Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament due to an injury, Jack explained it by saying, "I think Tiger's swing, and I think a lot of the swings of today, are far more violent at the ball than some of the old swings." He's right. The game has become about power, with Woods the guy who was at the forefront of the trend. Every swing Tiger has taken since he was 3, swings on the range, swings in amateur tournaments, swings in PGA events, swings at majors, every one of them has been with a force unlike anyone who came before him. And despite his best efforts of conditioning and weight training, his body has had to deal with the wear and tear. In his most recent surgery, Tiger had little pieces of bone removed from around his back. Ouch. Such a procedure may just clear up a lot of his problems and, when he returns, he'll be as good as new. Or it can be a harbinger of the future, as more and more little things break down for the guy who played the game better than anyone ever has for about a 10-year stretch. We don't know. But if it is the latter, that's sad. The game is diminished a bit. Just like next week's Masters telecast will be without him.

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• WSU: Day Three of spring football is in the books and Jacob Thorpe writes it up. The Cougars were visited by former quarterback Jason Gesser (pictured), who is no longer coaching. Gesser, who coached last season at Wyoming, is working with a fund-raising company. Jacob has more in his blog post from yesterday and today's morning post. He will also have a live chat at noon today and will be at the Ernie Kent introductory press conference. ... Jacob's weekly college baseball notebook leads with the Cougars today. ... ESPN.com's Pac-12 blog sees Deone Bucannon's shoes as the toughest for WSU to fill. ... Stanford's women are headed to the Final Four once again. ... How tough will it be to replace Mike Montgomery?

• Gonzaga: Senior guard Haiden Palmer was named an AP honorable mention All-America yesterday. ... Oregon got past GU in baseball yesterday. ... Matt Carlino was not happy at UCLA. He transferred. Now he's not happy at BYU. He will transfer and be able to play next season.

• EWU: As Eastern begins spring football the Eagles are not rebuilding, despite losing 11 starters. As Jim Allen relates in this story, they are reloading. ... Montana State has its new basketball coach.

• Shock: The Shock has had a while to digest their loss in Phoenix. Jim Meehan looks back and ahead in his weekly notebook.

• Preps: Central Valley rallied to top Mead in GSL softball. Chris Derrick was there and has this story.

• Seahawks: Though the Hawks don't draft until last – isn't that cool? – they will have a handful of prospects in for visits.

• Mariners: We are not going to get too excited just yet, but two wins to open the season – and all the runs that have been scored – are a lot better than the alternative. Heck, any alternative. With Justin Smoak and Brad Miller (pictured) doing the biggest damage, the M's pounded left-hander C.J. Wilson and the Angels, 8-3. ... Corey Hart returned to the field for the first time in more than a year. ... The decision to walk left-handed hitting Robinson Cano, loading the bases for the switch-hitting Smoak, bit the Angels in the backside. ... The M's announced their minor league rosters.

• Sounders: It's a rivalry week, heck, it's the rivalry week for Seattle as they face Portland. The Timbers are a little beat up, though that doesn't matter much in these type of games. Heck, so are the Sounders. ... The Sounders will be without a player due to a red card. Who will step up? ... Sigi Schmid and Chad Marshall had an interesting discussion after the loss to Columbus. ... Another week, more power rankings.

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• OK, I admit it. I love spring around here. April and May are my favorite months. Summer is nice, but this time of year, when the sun begins to climb the sky and warm the bones, is the best. Days like today are hard to match. Unless you have to wield a rake, like I'll be doing in a few hours. Wish me – and my baby-soft hands – luck. Until later ... 




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Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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