Tiger's comeback win a surprise
Most surprising result over the weekend: No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka's loss at the French Open, No. 1 seed Cal's loss at the Women's College World Series or Tiger Woods' win at The Memorial?
Cal looked poised for title
By Sarah Spain
A win from Tiger Woods will never surprise me. No matter how low he gets you know the talent and the killer instinct are still there. He's always one healthy knee/Achilles/ankle/calf away from the winner's circle.
As for Victoria Azarenka, at this point a loss from the No. 1 seed on the women's side seems almost a given at Roland Garros. In the past 15 years only one No. 1 seed has won the French Open -- Justine Henin in 2007.
So it's the ladies of Cal who surprised me this weekend with their loss to Alabama. During the regular season the Bears tied their season high with 56 wins and posted the best conference record in school history, going 21-3 for a .875 win percentage. They outscored their opponents 42-5, outhit them 55-31, and entered the World Series ranked first in the country in RPI and No. 1 in both polls.
An experienced team that returned nearly all of its players from last year's WCWS run, the Bears looked primed to prove their No. 1 seed true with a national championship win in Oklahoma City. Then again, Cal's loss came against a Crimson Tide team that owned the No.1 seed in the tournament two years ago before getting bounced in the Super Regionals and were one win away from the championship round last year. Alabama has been knocking on the door for a while and the Tide have finally made it into the final. I guess that's why you play the game.
Old Tiger returns
By Melissa Jacobs
Almost three years ago, Tiger Woods hit his low point, or as Don Draper would call it, "his relief." Since then Woods has quickly grown into two different athletes -- Old Tiger and New Tiger.
Old Tiger was the best golfer in the game by a mile, automatic in clutch situations. He was able to transcend the sport and draw in new fans with his unique blend of smarts, dedication and consistency.
New Tiger has lost his swing. He rarely wins and displays body language that would suggest the golf course is a stranger. He is an observer of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and a slew of young talent, that while nearly as good as Old Tiger, are not intimidated by new version. Simply put, New Tiger had become a has-been.
So when Woods hit that remarkable shot on 16, and birdied three of the last four holes to come from behind and win the Memorial, Old Tiger was back. Considering how far Woods had fallen, this was a stunning development. I guess it's time to start watching golf again.
Don't call it a comeback
By Adena Andrews
Currently playing on Tiger Woods' iPod is LL Cool J's "Momma Said Knock You Out" with the perfect opening line. Don't call it a comeback / I been here for years / Rockin my peers and putting suckas in fear.
While it was great to see Woods hold the trophy once more, it didn't come as a surprise. Since his extramarital affairs and hiatus from the game, his name on the leaderboard still put fear in the hearts of his competitors. Acts of expertise like his chip shot on the 16th hole let you know Woods' mastery of the game never left. He was never down for the count, just a dormant volcano waiting to erupt in his famous red polo.
If proving doubters wrong wasn't motivation enough to return to greatness, tying Jack Nicklaus with 73 tour wins had to encourage him.
What made me happier than seeing Woods win again was seeing his sense of humor and smile return. I was afraid the media and public had taken the joy of the game from him. But once again, Woods proved us wrong.
When he was asked, do you think you're back? He joked, "I won," with a wide smile. "I'm sure by Tuesday I'll be retired and done, and then by the time I tee it up at the U.S. Open [at Olympic Club in San Francisco in 11 days] it might be something different. But I'll let you guys figure that out."
Pac-12 out of finals
By Mechelle Voepel
The biggest surprise over the weekend? What happened at the College World Series was quite the stunner. The Pac-12 was shut out of the championship series for the first time since 1986, the year "Aliens" hit the theaters. Heck, I was still in college then, so it seems to be a least a couple of hundred years ago.
Was it also surprising that Tiger Woods played so well at the Memorial? Not especially, as this is traditionally one of his strongest tournaments. However, his Sunday rounds have been shaky, which is how it usually goes as golfers age. Being able to close out tournaments was so long Woods' forte, now it's cause for big celebration for him. So that part -- the 67 Sunday, highlighted by a spectacularly improbable birdie on No. 16 -- was a surprise.
As for Victoria Azarenka's loss at the French Open, consistency is still a problem for her, as is petulance. If she wants to be No. 1 on the court instead of just in the computer, she has to seize the opportunity and then live the part. Otherwise, she'll be ripe for another upset at Wimbledon.
Tiger a contender? No
By Kate Fagan
Tiger Woods. The remarkable inconsistency he has shown leads me to continually be surprised when he performs well. After he won the Arnold Palmer in March, everyone figured he'd be competitive at the Masters. (He finished tied for 40th.) Now that he's won the Memorial -- and this after finishing tied for 40th at the Players Championship -- everyone is talking about how maybe Tiger is ready to swoop in and win the U.S. Open. But count me out of that group of Tiger Woods' believers. I think we're in for more of a roller-coaster ride with him. Which is why his win over the weekend surprised me more than Azarenka's loss at Roland Garros or Cal's in Oklahoma City.
Vintage Tiger on display
By Amanda Rykoff
If I'm being honest, I don't think any of the three big stories in sports this weekend represent a surprise. The women's tennis scene has been a crapshoot and the French Open usually creates plenty of upsets. When I saw Victoria Azarenka had been ousted in the fourth round, I shrugged and thought, "Yup, that's women's tennis right now." As for top-seed Cal losing to Alabama in the Women's College World Series, Alabama came in as the No. 2 seed. Is a 2 over a 1 really a surprise? Not really. The Crimson Tide defeated two top-five teams this week, including defending champion Arizona State.
But since I have to choose one, I'll take Tiger's win in the Memorial. But it's Tiger Woods and it's a tournament he's won four times, so how big a surprise could that be? The result itself doesn't represent the surprise, even given Tiger's struggles over the past few years.
Admittedly, if it's 2009, we're not even having this conversation. What did make me -- and sports fans everywhere (or at least on Twitter) -- take notice was the way in which he won the tournament. Woods seemed to channel "vintage" 2009 Tiger when he staged a stunning comeback with birdies on three of his last four holes. One of those birdies came with Woods one shot back and stuck in deep rough on the 16th hole. He promptly nailed a jaw-dropping 50-foot shot which no less an authority than Jack Nicklaus called, "the most unbelievable, gutsy shot I've ever seen." After that, it seemed pretty obvious Woods would win, barring a complete disaster on the final two holes. That didn't happen and here we are.
Is Tiger back? It's unclear. But is he capable of a stunning Sunday comeback? Absolutely. And that's a pleasant surprise for golf fans -- and television executives -- everywhere.
Woods winning now a surprise
By Graham Hays
We thought Victoria Azarenka and California were good enough to win titles. We thought we knew Tiger Woods no longer was. The manner in which Woods proved otherwise was more surprising than anything that happened in Paris or Oklahoma City.
In some respects, Woods seemed the most likely of the three to win. Azarenka is No. 1 in the world, but she has never advanced to even the semifinals of the French Open, let alone won the title. Cal was the No. 1 seed in the Women's College World Series, but it last won a title in 2002, when many of its current players were just picking up the sport. Woods, on the other hand, is entirely familiar with cashing winner's checks from the Memorial, now one of six events he's won at least five times. But that history was exactly why it was easy to think he wasn't going to win this weekend. He was no longer the guy capable of dominating events year after year. He was the guy who had barely broken par in recent months. He was just another guy on the PGA Tour.
Woods winning any tournament these days is a surprise, but to win with the third-best comeback of his entire career and with the kind of miraculous shot he made for birdie on the 16th hole, chipping in from the rough, was mesmerizing. Other guys don't do that. It was the kind of round that was once almost commonplace for Woods. Which is why it was so surprising to see this weekend.
Woods favored again
By Jane McManus
After seeing Serena and Venus Williams go down at the French Open last week, it's hard to say Victoria Azarenka's loss is a shock. In the women's draw, top-seeded players can lose at the majors. Maria Sharapova, seeded second, lost in the third round of the 2007 U.S. Open when defending her title, and Azarenka struggled in the first round of the French this year.
So I'd choose Tiger Woods' win at the Memorial as the more surprising event. Woods hasn't been strong in recent years, and he has not exactly been a favorite at many tournaments. That could change with the momentum he picked up here. Tiger Woods a favorite? That, surprisingly, is a surprise.
Cal's shortcomings on biggest stage surprising
By Michelle Smith
No. 1 Cal's semifinal exit from the Women's College World Series was the most surprising result of the weekend because the Bears were the No. 1 team in the country most of the year and had 56 wins heading into the WCWS. But their stars struggled in Oklahoma City.
Valerie Arioto finished the tournament without a hit, going 0-for-7 in four games. Cal mustered just two hits in each of their losses. Pitcher Jolene Henderson was not nearly as sharp as she was during the first two rounds. There were uncharacteristic defensive mistakes.
Cal may well still be the best team in the country, but the Bears won't play for a national title because on the biggest stage, they simply didn't play like it.