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Grip on Sports: Without Tiger Woods, The Masters won’t be the same

Tiger Woods will return after his latest surgery, but will he ever regain form? (Associated Press)
Tiger Woods will return after his latest surgery, but will he ever regain form? (Associated Press)
A Grip On Sports

Wednesday: One of the rites of Spring, with a capital “S,” is watching the Masters on television. It’s coming up, but it won’t be the same. Not with  Tiger Woods sidelined.

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.

Tiger 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 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. 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 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. 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 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.

Tuesday: It wasn’t long after Washington State had hired Bill Moos as its athletic director a couple years ago that I went looking for Ernie Kent for an interview. I was working on a long take-out piece on Moos’ career, so I sat down with his former Oregon basketball coach at the Pac-12 tournament and talked with him about working for Moos.

One thing Kent said that got to me. He said if he had a chance to work for Moos again, he would jump at it in a heartbeat. He was, Kent said, the best boss he ever had.

And now Moos has hired Kent to replace Bone. Does it matter if Kent was Moos’ first choice or 15th? All that will matter down the road is whether the Washington State basketball program can get on sound footing.

It is the  hardest job in the Pac-12, but there’s little chance Kent will bolt if he can turn the program around. It will probably take three to five years and at that point Kent will be in his mid-60s, not the age most coaches start over in a new place.

So Moos and Kent will probably ride out together at some point, two friends trying to recreate past glories. Sometimes that works. If it does in Pullman, expect Beasley to be jumping once more.

Thursday: My oh my, the M’s are 3-0.

The last time the M’s began a season 3-0 you could still hear Dave Niehaus make his famous call.

Niehaus is no longer with us, of course, and he’s missed a lot of poor starts and heart-wrenching defeats the rest of have had to endure.

But with last night’s 8-2 win over the Angels, this year’s Mariner squad is undefeated after the  first three-game series of 2014. The M’s have started 3-0 just three times in their history, the last time in 1995. You remember 1995, don’t you? It was a simpler time, when everyone was listening to TLC and Boyz II Men and watching “Friends” on TV.

Ken Griffey Jr. broke his wrist in May and the M’s seemed doomed. But Griffey and the mojo returned down the stretch, the M’s rallied to catch the Angels and make the playoffs and Edgar Martinez hit the most important double in the franchise’s history.

And there was that smile. Griffey’s unforgettable smile. I do know this. If the M’s continue to hit the ball like they have the first three games of this season, there will be a lot of Mariner fans smiling as the season progresses.

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