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Published: Wednesday, 5/20/2009

'Monday Night Football' will get better with Gruden

Idle thoughts from an idle mind, with an eye on my TV screen:

•Monday Night Football got a lot better with the announcement that Jon Gruden will replace Tony Kornheiser as the third man in the booth this fall.

That's not necessarily a knock on Kornheiser, who is an acquired taste. When he took the ESPN gig three years ago, the network told him to be himself, which is a wide range between sarcastic and snotty with a never-ending bent towards witty.

A Kornheiser fan from his radio days, I sort of enjoyed the first year or so. He filled his role without being as obtrusive as Dennis Miller was during that failed experiment. The short essays Tony delivered were exceptional at times and made his fellow columnists everywhere proud.

At some point, though, the journalist in him seemed intent on being taken as seriously as the other voices in the booth and it became an uncomfortable, jumbled, too-loud fit.

Taking the articulate, straight-shooting Gruden seriously will be no problem. A veteran coach with a Super Bowl notch in his belt, he has what the kids would call street cred. It will be all football all the time, which should be fine with hard-core fans.

•Major League Baseball and Fox TV announced that World Series weeknight starting times will be about 30 minutes earlier this year. Fox went along with the move after record-low ratings during last fall's Philadelphia-Tampa Bay series. We'd like to think baseball's motives were pure and centered on more comfort for the creatures sitting under October skies and for the next generation of fans who'd like to see a few innings before bedtime.

If baseball wanted to make a serious commitment to the latter group, it would insist to its TV partner that Saturday World Series games be played in the afternoon. Don't hold your breath.

•Tip of the hat to local golf pros Jamie Vigh and Mike Stone, who advanced out of the U.S. Open local qualifying tournament at Maumee Bay. Vigh carded a 68 and Stone won on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff after finishing regulation play with a 69.

Stone said it was more dramatic than he would have preferred after making the turn in 4-under. He bogeyed three straight holes before running in a 35-foot eagle putt on No. 18 to tie for the last spot and gain the playoff berth.

The two will next play in 36-hole sectional qualifiers - the last stop before the Open at Bethpage Black on Long Island - on June 8. Vigh will tee it up at NCR Country Club near Dayton and Stone is entered at Brookside-The Lakes split site in Columbus.

Stone is shooting for his second U.S. Open. He was in the field 10 years ago at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.

•The NCAA men's golf championship at Inverness Club - fans should not miss this opportunity to see some startling young talent - is less than a week away and the five highest seeded teams after regional play are Oklahoma State (featuring the No. 1-ranked amateur player in the world, Rickie Fowler), Alabama, Florida, Arizona State and UCLA.

The top-seeded individual is Kyle Stanley, whose Clemson team failed to advance. He is the second-ranked U.S. amateur after Fowler, but not for long. He'll be turning pro after the NCAA tournament.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.

Hack talks sports with Mark Benson on WXKR, 94.5 FM, Thursday mornings at 8.



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