What a weekend for sports. There was the biggest golf tournament of the year, the last weekend before the playoffs in the NBA and a national championship off the radar for most people outside of the Northeast and upper Midwest. Not to mention the second weekend of baseball – suffice to say, I didn’t spend much time away from the couch Saturday or Sunday.
Just up the road about 120 miles, the best golfers in the world were facing off on the most storied course in America.
After leading the tournament for three days, 21-year-old Rory McIlroy self-destructed on day four. With a four-shot lead enter the final 18 holes and the green jacket all but his, the Northern Irishman authored one of most epic final-round meltdowns in the 75-year history of the tournament, shooting an eight-over 80 to finish tied for 15th place.
While the epic collapse was hard to watch, it opened up the field and we were privy to some extraordinary golf Sunday, including the play of Tiger Woods – who all but put to rest the talk of him being past his prime – as he shot a five-under 67 to finish the Masters tied for third at -10. There were five players who shot 68 or better on Saturday, and at one point there was a five-way tie for first at -10.
In the end, the winner was a 26-year-old South African, who most golf fans know little about. Charl Schwartzel roared to the win with birdies on the 15th, 16th 17th and 18th holes for the unexpected, come-from-behind win, and a remarkable -6 for the final round and a -14 for the tournament.
For those of you who aren’t golf fans, you were undoubtedly tuned into the NBA during the last weekend before the playoffs. As the Bulls and Heat continue to surge and the Celtics and Lakers stagger.
Sunday, led by Derek Rose’s 39 points, the Bulls won their seventh straight, and 19 of their last 21 games. Chicago clinched the first place seed in the East and, as of Monday, are just one game behind San Antonio for the best record in the league.
My beloved Celtics are faltering, and I can’t see I didn’t see it coming after Danny Ainge made the worst trade of the year. He inexplicably traded away starting center Kendrick Perkins as part of a multiplayer deal, even though Boston’s window to win is NOW – now meaning this year, not next, and now we have no big-body down low. Boston was whipped by the Heat Sunday afternoon, 100-77, giving LeBron et al a firmer grasp on the number-two seed.
That same day, the Lakers lost their fifth-straight for the first time since 2006-2007, as they fell 120-106 to Oklahoma City. If the skid continues through their last two games, they could fall as far as the fourth place seed in the west.
But the best game of the weekend was the one that most people weren’t watching, as the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota-Duluth faced off for the NCAA hockey championship Saturday night. It was a historical David vs. Goliath: Michigan has won the most NCAA hockey titles of any school (10), while Minnesota Duluth – in a town on the shores of Lake Superior, 150 miles northeast of Minneapolis –has never won a hockey title.
It was neck-and-next the entire game, and at the end of regulation was tied 2-2.
Overtime – a word that hockey fans love to hate. If it’s your team playing, nothing is as nerve-racking as overtime, but if you are a neutral fan, nothing is as electrifying.
In the end it was the typical David story – not only did Duluth win in overtime, but it was the team’s own David who was the star; Kyle Schmidt is the 2010-2011 winner of the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award. For those who don’t know, Derek Hines was a former Went Point hockey player who was killed in Afghanistan, Sept. 1, 2005. “Unsung heroes” don’t usually win the national championship for their school. But just 3:22 into overtime in front of an almost-home crowd in St. Paul, Schmidt secured the title for Minnesota-Duluth as he buried the puck in the Michigan net.
Even if you aren’t a basketball, golf or college hockey fan, there was plenty of NHL and MLB action this weekend – everyone wins!