The Bear and the Tiger

At the end of round two, Tiger was four back and two ahead of Nicklaus. The co-leader (with Couples) was another, if lesser, heartthrob of golf's youth movement, David Duval. Since the heavily favored Woods scored his last Tour victory in July 1997, Duval had won four tournaments, launching him into what Augusta National founder Bobby Jones once called "the upper crust of golfing skill." The other Masters favorites--Justin Leonard, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Davis Love III, Nick Faldo, John Daly--found themselves in various states of disrepair.

Meanwhile, the gods of dogwood and azalea had begun to send out bizarre signals--signals that, if you paid heed, announced that wisdom might triumph this time over brilliant youth. For one thing, the old pro Gay Brewer, who has a face like a Virginia ham and a swing still as sweet as the glaze, shot an even par 72 on windy Thursday. Brewer is 66. For another, Gary Player became the oldest player, at 62, to make the Masters cut. For a third, CBS managed to air the ceremonial Thursday morning tee shots of Sam Snead (who got out of a hospital bed to be there), Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen, whose legendary double eagle back in the 1935 Masters put Jones's dinky little tournament on the map. On Thursday Sarazen stepped into the tee box wearing white knickers, addressed the ball and smacked it crisply down the middle. He is 96 years old.

Those who--come the famous treacheries of Sunday afternoon at the Masters--translated these several figures and images into bright hopes for their nostalgic old favorite Jack could not really be crushed. By the time O'Meara was cloaked in the green wool blend, Nicklaus had finished at 283--two strokes ahead of Woods, Leonard and Montgomerie, three better than Phil Mickelson, Jay Haas and Jose Maria Olazabal, five ahead of young Kuchar and eleven better than Zoeller. It was a blow struck for experience. The best player ever had brought four decades' worth of skill and cunning back to a golf course he had played 200 times and conquered on six glorious Sunday afternoons in the course of a quarter-century.

Clearly he didn't need another 44-regular to fill out his wardrobe, and he already had a bronze plaque out at the seventeenth.

"It would be stupid to say I wasn't thrilled," Nicklaus allowed, looking seamed and worn. "I would also be pretty dishonest if I didn't tell you I was disappointed."

This won't happen again. It can't. In all likelihood, this was Jack Nicklaus's last run at the Masters--at any major--and we would do well to make the most of it while it's fresh in our minds. Meanwhile, looking to the future, Nicklaus predicted that Tiger Woods, fueled by 325-yard drives and a cool putting stroke, likely has the stuff to win ten Masters jackets.

Maybe. But the kid better get in gear. He's got only forty good years left.

Thank heaven for the Denver Nuggets.
As things stood April 13, the Colorado Avalanche was mired in a bout of listlessness that saw them lose six straight games--not a good sign for their playoff fortunes. Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies, emboldened this spring by high-priced pitchers Darryl Kile and Pedro Astacio, gave up 107 hits, 41 walks and 86 earned runs (91 total) to their opponents in the course of an eight-game losing streak--including the first six home games at Coors Field.

They were getting whomped by an average of eight runs and could well fall out of the Western Division pennant race before you can get the steaks on the grill Memorial Day.

Ever mindful of history, the wags at ESPN pointed out over the weekend that the Denver Broncos allowed only 83 points in eight home games last season. Talk about odious comparisons.

That brings us to the Nuggets. On April 9, Messrs. Garrett, Goldwire and Fortson, along with their beleaguered brethren, managed to beat the woeful Sacramento Kings at Big Mac. It was the Nuggs' tenth win of the season, and it cast off the label of the NBA's worst-ever team.

What's more, it represented the only victory by a Denver pro sports team in recent memory. Hmmmm. Wonder if Bill Hanzlik can throw a curveball. Does Tony Battie own ice skates? Someone look into it.

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