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The Buck Stops Here: Let's hope prescription drugs don't have Tiger by tail

In a statement Monday evening, hours after he was charged and released on his own recognizance, Tiger Woods took responsibility for driving under the influence earlier in the day in Florida. He emphasized that he wasn't drinking and driving, but buzzing from a concoction of prescription medication.

By then, the public had examined the downtrodden man in his mugshot, remembered his greatness and concluded both were completely wasted. Woods didn't look like Nick Nolte after his 2002 arrest, but he certainly didn't look like himself after he won the 2002 Masters, either, after his latest slip on a downward slope.

Woods apologized Monday, said he expected more from himself and insisted he would "do everything in my power to ensure this never happens again." He effectively drew a line separating reckless criminal behavior from an honest mistake made by a man recovering from back surgery.

Many initially saw his name connected to "DUI" and thought "drunk driving," then wondered why a man with his resources didn't catch a ride. He could have afforded a limousine, a cab, an Uber, or a Boeing 747. And he didn't have the common sense, or decency, to call somebody for a lift?

The tone changes when it comes to prescription meds. By no means does his excuse make driving under the influence acceptable, but most would agree it's more understandable. Woods told police he had prescriptions for four drugs, including Vicodin. Now, were was he going, and where was he coming from, when the cops pulled over his vehicle at 3 a.m.?

For now, it's anybody's guess, and that may include Tiger himself.

Woods and the people in his corner – lawyers, agents, advisors, friends, etc. – were smart enough to know when he released his statement that toxicology tests would come back negative for alcohol. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been so adamant while denying booze was involved.

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According to a police report obtained by TMZ on Tuesday, Woods' actions supported his claim. He was asleep at the wheel when the cops approached his 2015 Mercedes. His speech was slurred. He was mumbling and sounded confused. He failed roadside tests, such as standing straight and touching his nose, but passed his Breathalyzer with flying colors: .000.

Thankfully, nobody was injured.

The incident is no less disturbing.

Once was a time Tiger could do no wrong. We admired him for his flawless swing, unshakeable demeanor and 14 majors only to find a deeply flawed and shaken man who stopped winning. His father died. His marriage fell apart. In a tangled mess, there were the women, the injuries, the yips and finally, sadly, inevitably, the law.

Add him to the list of megastars who fell from grace, who found out how quickly respect could be replaced by ridicule. Because he performed to the highest standards on the course, he was held to the highest standards in life. Fair or not, he has been reduced to a repeat offender in the Court of Public Opinion.

We know where Tiger has been, but we’re not quite sure where he's going. I pray that he was telling the truth Monday, that he made one mistake with prescription drugs, that something worse, like an addiction problem that began with painkillers, wasn't festering inside. He certainly wouldn't be the first in this country.

The collapse of Tiger as we knew him was tragic enough, and I worry that another tragedy awaits him. Here's hoping Woods will someday look back at the morning he woke up behind the wheel, dazed and confused but alive, and conclude a low point in his life was actually a blessing. Here's hoping it wasn't too late.

Blame Strickland for basebrawl

Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland could be a great guy, a selfless provider of food and shelter for the poor and medicine for the sick. I never met him, but I would guess he's a loose cannon and not the most popular figure in his own clubhouse.

My theory is based on the following after he plunked Bryce Harper in the midsection with a 98 mph heater, leading to the bench-clearing brawl Monday between the Giants and Nationals:

  • Three years ago, Strickland caused both benches to empty in the World Series after he served up a two-run homer to Omar Infante and began screaming at … who? … Salvador Perez after he jogged home from second base. Strickland later admitted he had problems controlling his emotions.
  • Three years ago, he also gave up two homers in Harper in the NL playoffs and was still simmering Monday when they faced one another for the first time since that game. Was he upset because Harper did his job or spent too much time admiring his work? Nobody seemed to know, and it mattered little because … it happened three years ago.
  • The Giants' Buster Posey made no attempt to stop Harper when he charged the mound Monday. Afterward, Posey told reporters that he understood Harper's anger. In other words, if Strickland is going to intentionally hit him with a pitch over something that happened three years ago, and wasn't Harper's fault, that his pitcher could deal with the consequences.
  • Strickland's other teammates didn't come to his defense after the game, either. Instead, they leaned on "that's baseball" clichés that failed to address the real problem: Strickland. Whether people agree with them or not, unwritten rules exist in baseball. The Giants knew Strickland's act could lead to one of them getting plunked.

No matter how bad it looked for Harper, Posey, and others involved in the brawl, and it was ugly, nobody looked worse in the end than Strickland.

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Radford's success linked to WNY

Radford University is back in the NCAA baseball regionals for the second time in three years under Joe Raccuia, the former Canisius High star who has been the head coach at his alma mater for the past 10 years. Feel free to hop on the bandwagon. His team has several Western New York connections.

The Highlanders finished fifth in the Big South Conference before winning the conference tournament. Their roster includes pitchers Evan Threehouse, a freshman who led Olean High to a Section VI title last year, and Kyle Zurak, a senior who starred at Williamsville North and graduated in 2013.

Threehouse threw four innings of relief and earned his first save in a win over UNC-Asheville in the conference semifinals. Zurak, who had been primarily used as a reliever, tossed a complete game over third-seeded Presbyterian in the championship game. Raccuia expects Zurak to get drafted next month.

"He's a top 10-round pick," Raccuia said Tuesday. "He's throwing 92-95 (mph), with an 86-87 mph slider. He's filthy. He's legitimately, ridiculously filthy right now. Threehouse is a guy for down the road. I'm happy for both of those kids."

Raccuia has a 293-269-1 record over 10 seasons at Radford, which is located about 15 miles from Virginia Tech near Lynchburg, Va. The Highlanders had never reached the NCAA regionals before he guided them there in 2015. Including his four years as a player, he had been involved in nearly half of Radford's total victories.

Radford (11-13 in the conference, 27-30 overall) will play top-seeded Louisville on Friday and either Oklahoma or Xavier on Saturday in the regionals. Louisville is expected to start lefthander Brendan McKay, a top prospect going into the major league draft next month.

McKay, considered one of the top hitters and pitchers in the nation, could be the first pick overall. Sports Illustrated reported earlier this month that Minnesota was leaning toward the 6-2, 220-pound junior over Hunter Greene, the high school pitcher from California who throws a 100 mph fastball and is a terrific hitter.

Bettman doesn't deserve bashing

Gary Bettman has been getting an inordinate amount of criticism for not allowing players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, but I'm with the NHL commissioner on this one. Bettman's job is deciding what's best for his league and its owners, not satisfying players and fans.

NHL players were included in five straight Winter Olympics, starting with the 1998 Games in Nagano. The first time is always exciting. It was terrific when the Games were held in North America (Salt Lake City in 2002, Vancouver in 2010), but the product suffered terribly in Italy in 2006 and again Russia in 2014.

Spending the time, money and energy needed to pause the regular season and travel -- to continents that the NHL isn't trying to reach -- makes very little sense. However, it makes perfect sense to travel that far when the NHL is trying to grow the sport in a country with the size, population and interest of China.

For the umpteenth time, the easy fix for the International Ice Hockey Federation would be holding the World Junior Championships in conjunction with the Olympics in years in which the NHL decided to stay home. It's too late for next year. If you have a beef, take it up with IIHF officials, not the NHL commissioner.

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Quotable

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, sidelined with back problems, addressing the media while assistant coach Mike Brown was out with the flu: "The good news is the team is healthy; the bad news is the coaching staff is dropping like flies."

Stats Inc.

41.6 – Shooting percentage of the Penguins in Game One of the Stanley Cup final, when they beat the Predators, 5-4, with 12 shots on goal. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the fewest shots for a winning team in the final since it the NHL started keeping track in 1957-58.

6 – Walk-off homers for Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, tying him with Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell for most in franchise history.

24-1 – Combined postseason record this year of the Warriors and Cavaliers, who became the first two teams to meet in the NBA Finals in three consecutive seasons.

Extra Points

Cowboys cornerback Nolan Carroll must have been humiliated early Monday after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. As if the charges weren't embarrassing enough, they were filed after the former Eagles defensive back was pulled over on his way to a party welcoming him to Dallas.

Quick, who is leading the NHL in postseason goals? Try Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel, who snapped home the winner over Nashville in Game One of the Stanley Cup final. He has 10 goals in 20 playoff games, not bad considering the 22-year-old had 16 goals in 40 games during the regular season.

The University of Miami had reached the NCAA baseball tournament in 44 consecutive years, the longest streak in college sports, before it was overlooked from the 64-team field this year. The Hurricanes reached the College World Series the past two years but finished 31-27 this season and failed to receive an at-large bid.

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