Woke up rooting for America Sunday morning. Phil Mickelson made a charge, Dustin Johnson was in the hunt and it looked like a U.S. golfer would steal the Claret Jug at the British Open.
I was rooting for America after lunch, too. Abby Wambach scored late and it looked like the U.S. would seal the Women's World Cup after a dramatic two weeks in Germany.
Mickelson three-putted on No. 11, Johnson hit a shot out-of-bounds on 14 and the Americans faded at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England. Couples hours later in Frankfurt, the U.S. gave up goals in the 81st minute of regulation and 117th minute in the second overtime, then botched a couple of penalty kicks in a stunning come-from-ahead loss in the championship game.
But considering the beneficiaries of the meltdowns, it wasn't that bad after all. Because in Darren Clarke and Japan, we got two winners anyone can embrace with a little joy.
Northern Ireland's Clarke, 42, lost his wife to breast cancer in 2006 and multiple times gave up the game of golf. His weight wildly fluctuated. He alternately quit drinking, cigars and fast cars, only to indulge in all of them en route to resurrecting his career. Now portly and happy, he is engaged again and a major winner for the first time.
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Good for him.
Japan, of course, is a country still reeling from the earthquake and tsunami that killed 23,000 in March. Not a lot was expected from its women's soccer team in the World Cup. But an upset of host Germany led to a championship match against the U.S., a team it hadn't beaten in 25 tries. The U.S. led 1-0 late and then 2-1 even later, but Homare Sawa knocked in an incredible flick-goal on a corner-kick, glancing it off Wambach's arm and surprising American sweetheart goalie Hope Solo. Helped by American Carli Lloyd inexplicably and totally missing the goal, the Japanese won on penalty kicks, 3-1.
Good for them.
When in doubt, root for the home team. But, in retrospect, Mickelson has four majors and the U.S. women have two World Cups. The folks who needed triumphs the most on Sunday played their best.