Can it get any stranger than that ?
That was the consensus of bowling fans everywhere Sunday after Mika Koivuniemi missed a 10-pin in the 10th frame of the title match to hand the U.S. Open title to Norm Duke 225-216 in a bizarre ending to a PBA Tour TV show for the second straight day.
In the famous words of the late, great Jack Buck: "I don't believe what I just saw."
I was sitting in the bar at Towne and Country Lanes in Joliet, Ill., after bowling in a tourney there, watching the title match with several other bowlers and it was bedlam when Koivuniemi missed the 10-pin.
He still would have needed eight pins to win and seven to tie if he had made the spare, but to see "Major Mika" miss like that was almost unfathomable.
And to come after Duke seemingly lost his chance to win on a solid 8-pin in the eighth frame and a day after the bizarre ending to Saturday's show on ESPN2 in which Bill O'Neill handed a win to Ryan Shafer with an open in the 10th , well it was almost too much to believe.
After the solid 8-pin in the eighth, Duke closed with four of the most unbelievably clutch strikes in bowling history, considering the brutally tough U.S. Open pattern and what was at stake. That forced Koivuniemi to mark in the 10th.
Duke won $80,000 and tied fellow Hall of Famer Mark Roth for fourth in PBA history with 34 titles. Seven of Duke's are majors.
"You'd like to say to yourself I just won the U.S. Open, and maybe I'll grow into that, but right this minute, I feel like Mika lost the U.S. Open," Duke said in a PBA news release. "But I'm sitting here, holding the trophy. I had conceded the match. I knew the last four strikes were important, because you never know what'll happen. But missing the 10 pin is like having your ace pitcher on the mound and he throws four straight balls, and you lose."
Duke had faced a similar circumstance when he made the 2-4-5-8 in the 10th frame to win the 2008 U.S. Open.
"I couldn't feel my legs on the approach on that shot," Duke said in the PBA news release. "That's what happens under pressure. That's why guys miss three-foot putts. And it's fatigue. I'm exhausted. If I had to make a 10 pin to win, it would be suspect at best.
"It's not like I didn't deserve to win. I was the top qualifier. I did throw four strikes in a row, after leaving a solid 8-pin in the eighth frame. I did what I needed to do"
Koivuniemi beat Shafer 236-222 in Sunday's first match, and then Tommy Jones in the semifinal match, 241-158.
"Duke is one of the greatest players ever. I knew it was going to be a tough match," Koivuniemi said in the PBA release. "I took the biggest shot of my life in the 10th frame and left the 10-pin, but unfortunately I didn't make my spare. It was my nerves, I guess. I was thinking about the wrong things. This is the first time in my life I've lost a title like that."
Over the past five years, PBA Tour players have coverted 95.9 percent of 10-pin leaves on national TV, PBA reported in the release.
68TH LUMBER LIQUIDATORS U.S. OPEN
Brunswick Zone-Carolier, North Brunswick, N.J., Sunday
1, Norm Duke, Clermont, Fla., one game, 225 pins, $80,000.
2, Mika Koivuniemi, Hartland, Mich., three games, 693 pins, $40,000.
3, Tommy Jones, Simpsonville, S.C., one game, 158 pins, $20,000.
4, Ryan Shafer, Horseheads, N.Y., two games, 415 pins.$13,000.
5, Bill O'Neill, Southampton, Pa., two games, 387 pins, $11,000.
6, Dan MacLelland, Saginaw, Mich., one game, 150 pins, $10,000.
Match One (Saturday night): O'Neill def. MacLelland, 204-150.
Match Two (Saturday night): Shafer def. O'Neill, 193-183.
Match Three: Koivuneimi def. Shafer, 236-222.
Semifinal Match: Koivuniemi def. Jones, 241-158.
Championship: Duke def. Koivuniemi, 225-216.