Sorry Mika (Photo courtesy of the PBA)
2011 U.S. Open
Many people would argue that Norm Duke should have won this tournament to begin with. But there was enough drama in the final frames to boost this tournament into PBA infamy.
As both a Duke and a Mika fan, this was tough to watch; but I guess I'm glad I didn't see Bill O'Neill's chokefest against Ryan Shafer or else I'd be really pissed.
Both bowlers had great games going, despite the tough pattern. And the set stage couldn't be better:
Norm Duke, a PBA legend and one of the toughest match-play bowlers ever, against the "Big Finn" Mika Koivuniemi, the hottest player on tour since the change of the new year.
Each player got a horrendous break during the match, unfortunately for Mika, his came at the worst possible moment.
Duke was down just four to Mika in the 7th when he blasted an 8-pin. But being the professional that he is, Duke didn't stop and stare at the pin, yell, or make any sarcastic mannerisms - he just walked back to convert the spare.
Mika packed his next two shots in the 8th and 9th for a four-timer; giving him a 24-pin lead going into the final frame.
Duke tossed all four in the 9th and 10th; forcing Mika to fill 16 pins in the 10th to win.
The rest is history, Mika yelled "CARRY!" in Finnish as his ball went down, leaving the inevitable 10-pin. Randy Pedersen's kiss of death, "He's a good spare shooter, but he must convert this" was pretty much all that was needed.
Following the open, Mika was on the floor, and Duke closed his eyes in disbelief. The win showed not only what a true professional Norm Duke is, but what an incredible sportsman he is as well.
He didn't jump and yell, or even move. He just sat there, to let Mika let out his frustration. During his trophy ceremony Duke, in tears, gave his condolences to Mika.
"I feel for Mika, I really do," he said. Duke added, "My heart is with Mika."
As I stated before, this is #1 because of the stakes. You can argue making a 10-pin is harder than getting 7 on a shot, but you can't argue the stakes.
This would've been Mika's 10th title overall, fourth major, an $80,000 payday, and an all but locked up Player of the Year award. I believe after this tournament that he still has a very good shot to win the Player of the Year, seeing as how O'Neill failed to make the TV finals, but losing was a definite setback.