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Announcers give Woods free pass for first day of Ryder Cup

How good is the Ryder Cup? So good that, in the early going at least, ESPN announcers seemed to forget Tiger Woods was playing like a Sunday chop player.

This weekend's U.S.-Europe golf showdown kicked off Friday in the chill of a Chicago morning, and Woods never warmed up. His always problematic driver delivered shots to the far parts of the Medinah Country Club course like it was Fed Ex.

Woods hit a spectator, whiffed on chips, he was indifferent putting. Yet, through his first 15 holes, the worst thing ESPN analysts said was he had "not a whole lot of crisp shots."

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And the Greek economy is having a rough patch.

Most curious was the reticence of former Ryder Cup U.S. captain Curtis Strange, working as an analyst for ESPN. Where the typical Strange would have been wondering if his successor, Davis Love III, should bench Woods for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, Strange spared former teammate Woods any real criticism until five hours into the broadcast, when he mused that he believed every player should sit at some point.

When Johnny Miller takes over Saturday on NBC, there won't be the same free pass for Woods.

Operator, please

Great audio when a cellphone rang during Lee Westwood's shot routine in foursomes. The droll Englishman could be heard to say: "That's a nice ring tone." If that was caddy Steve Williams on Woods's bag, there would have been a homicide.

Anyone else uncomfortable with the bro-mance between U.S. golfers Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley? Their pretournament interviews were like an eHarmony commercial featuring love-struck teenagers. …"He's just a fun guy." … "I love his compete level." …

Who blinked?

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Did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell blink in the media storm of protest against replacement officials?

When a new agreement with the regular refs was announced Thursday, Goodell initially said there was no connection between the settlement and last Monday's meltdown in the Green Bay-Seattle game.

Negotiations had been ongoing, as they like to say in the labour game. Timing was a coincidence.

Even as he tried to brazen it out, Goodell's story was falling apart. Locked-out refs blew holes in his chronology. Social media savaged the league's stance that it was not bowing to pressure. Even the lapdog NFL media wasn't buying.

By Friday, Goodell was in abject apology mode. "I believe in accountability, not excuses," the commissioner wrote in an e-mail to fans. "And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game."

"You deserve better. As a lifelong fan, this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances."

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Goodell was in a no-win situation, trapped between the baying hounds of the press and his intransigent owner bosses, who wanted the whip hand. It was his job to convince owners their best interests were served by listening to the media for a change.

In the end, Goodell did that and took the public hit.

Now, we wonder, if faced with a similar media storm, would NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners accept reality or would they double down?

Always look on bright side

The New York Times caught up with replacement ref Jeff Sadorus on what it was like to be the fall guy for the owners. "Everyone wanted perfection, but come on: the last guy who was perfect they nailed to a cross. And he wasn't even an official."

Happy trails

Props to Dave Schreiber, who's retiring as the voice of the OHL's Ottawa 67s. Schreiber's first 67s game was in 1974. He called five Memorial Cup wins by the team, including one at home in 1999. They should name a highway after him for all the miles he travelled.

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