Sports: Tiger Misses The Cut; Philly Lives In Hope

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This week, golf's PGA Championship might have cemented the downfall of Tiger Woods, while the Philadelphia Eagles hope their first preseason game was just a small step en route to a Super Bowl appearance. Guest host Jacki Lyden talks sports with ESPN's Howard Bryant.

JACKI LYDEN, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

Time now for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LYDEN: This week, golf's PGA Championship might have cemented the downfall of Tiger Woods, while the Philadelphia Eagles hope their first preseason game was just a small step en route to a Super Bowl appearance.

ESPN's Howard Bryant joins us from member station WFCR in Amherst, Massachusetts. Welcome, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Jacki. How are you?

LYDEN: I am great. Well, nice to be back with you. Hey, Tiger Woods seemed optimistic heading into this weekend, until he turned in two disastrous rounds before missing the cut at 10 over par. What happened to Tiger Woods, Howard? LYDEN: I am great. Well, nice to be back with you. Hey, Tiger Woods seemed optimistic heading into this weekend, until he turned in two disastrous rounds before missing the cut at 10 over par. What happened to Tiger Woods, Howard?

BRYANT: Well, what didn't happen to Tiger Woods? This was awful. This has been a continuation of the most spectacular collapse, I think, in American sports history; to have a player be on top of the sports world, to be the most recognizable sports figure in the world, to fall apart in so many different ways, at so many different levels. It's stunning to watch, simply to see what's happened with him on the field of play. But I think it's even more stunning when you look at him in totality.

He went into this tournament feeling optimistic, feeling like he had had a clean slate, and it was one of his worst rounds of his career. In fact, I think it was the third worst round of his career. And I think on top of that, what's even more stunning about Tiger is while all of this collapsing for him on field - while his family life has collapsed - you also have some of his great sports friends who have also wondered exactly what's happened to him. Charles Barkley, Roger Federer, all say that he's no longer friends with them. And so I think it's really interesting when you watch what's happened with him - a perfect storm of physical injury, of personal catastrophe. And it really is one of the most unbelievable public spectacles I think I've seen for a professional athlete.

LYDEN: Howard, in the absence of Tiger Woods, there are a cluster of relative unknowns at the top of the leader board. Do you think that newcomers, like Jason Dufner or Keegan Bradley, can hold on to win?

BRYANT: Someone is, obviously, going to win the tournament, and someone is going to be an unknown. You've got - Jim Furyk is a shot off the lead. I think he's probably the most recognizable of the top 10. Steve Stricker is a very good golfer as well. Adam Scott is down there, tied for 11th. But that wow factor, that superstar factor, that's gone. And I think that the question has always been over the last 15 years, has been - are people watching golf for golf, or are they watching golf for Tiger? And you don't have that big name anymore.

But that's the beauty of the sport as well. No matter who's playing, it always does come down to that final weekend. You've got the top 14 players - are within four shots. So you're going to have some Sunday drama here.

LYDEN: Well, let's go over to football. The Philadelphia Eagles think they're ready to show up the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers - that's something. Will the lockout-shortened training camp hurt the Eagles?

BRYANT: Oh, I think it's going to be a while before we find out exactly how the lockout really affected anybody. The one thing we do know is that the Eagles, they said they were going to be aggressive once the lockout ended. They have been. They've got all kinds of stars. They're loaded. Everybody wants to play for them.

And I think where you're going to see a lot of the residue of the lockout is if you get a lot of early injuries. If you start getting conditioning injuries - hamstrings, cramps, those types of things - some of those nagging injuries that a complete preseason and training camp might have avoided.

But on the field right now, you've got the Eagles, the Patriots, the Packers. Those teams are really very, very good teams. They've loaded up the Packers, the defending champions. I think those are the three teams, certainly, that everyone is going to be watching.

LYDEN: Howard, let's live dangerously. Talk about the Detroit Lions. For the first time since Barry Sanders retired, a bit of buzz surrounding the team.

BRYANT: It's been a while. Let's face it - the type of buzz that the Detroit Lions have created for the past several years has been the spectacular way that they've lost football games. And let's face it - in 2008, they didn't win a game, 0 and 16. And I've always said that a trained monkey could actually make the playoffs in football because the rules are set up that everyone has a chance. And the Detroit Lions haven't had one.

This team hasn't won half of its games. They haven't been 500 since 2000. They haven't made the playoffs since 1999. But they've got a great defense. They've got a good, young quarterback with Matthew Stafford. And for the first time, you may actually look at the Lions - even though they are in a tough division - you may look at them as a team that could knock on the door for the playoffs. Believe it or not.

LYDEN: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Pleasure to talk to you, Howard.

BRYANT: Oh, my pleasure.

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